It is believed that youth account for a good number of energetic work force for Africa especially in advancing the continents Agriculture agenda and creating more jobs in this sector to host a significant number of youth in on farm and off farm jobs. It was discussed several times that unemployment in Africa is hitting a top roof and that modernization of agriculture and involving youth into this profession can significantly reduce the unemployment rate while building their economic independence and creating decent rural employment.
Engaging in agriculture activities at any level of the value chain requires a minimum of investment. One of the main challenge faced by youth is the access to financial services including deposits, credit, payments, money transfers, leasing or insurance due to a number of factors like physical accessibility, affordability, eligibility and legislative frameworks. Even tough in many cases policy plays a critical role in this crucial challenges, youth faces as well a problem of a limited involvement into policy dialogue. Therefore, they do not have a space to voice their concerns and possible solutions to youth-specific constraints.
On behalf of Youth Engagement in Agriculture Network (YEAN), I participated in this 2 days workshop that was mainly attended by young people. We were given the opportunity to interact and share experience on how youth are given space to express their thoughts in policy dialogue in our respective countries and how to unlock the bottlenecks that inhibit youth in accessing finance. The workshop was including also banks, government and development partners. Discussion were around specific topics including:
The role of youth in agribusiness and the solutions proposed to solve the challenges that they face
Youth in agribusiness and their engagement in policy dialogue
Financial inclusion for youth in agribusiness
A session of business peach
Vibrant sessions of panel discussions and Q&A made the workshop very colorful where participants expressed their views on the necessity of engaging youth in policy dialogue. Harrison Ndayambaje and Laura Nakigozi Octavia both poultry farmers from Uganda highlighted that banks give loan at high interest late, and startup agripreneurs cannot make profit with that money. However, the representative from government have mentioned that the government has piloted a youth fund with interest free loan whereby youth will pay only the principal amount. Stephen Muchiri the CEO of East African Farmers Federation pointed out that agriculture used to be taken as poor-mans professional but it possess many opportunities when it comes to economic development. He added that EAFF is trying to bring onboard different actors to help young farmers build their capacity in accessing finance and policy dialogue. Elisabeth Nsimadala the President of EAFF appreciated the great collaboration with FAO and IFAD that has benefited a number of young farmers including 567 youth groups that were trained and equipped with financial literacy and got capacity building and 35 agripreneurs who accessed finance through this project.
Young farmers presented many challenges in doing agriculture as a business but they were urged by Dorothy Kipsang of We Effect to persist and have an entrepreneurial spirit of never quitting. However, development organizations were also asked to be part of that journey in mentoring and coaching them to facilitate in reaching their dreamed business goals.
The youth regional forum was a good space to get to know better how we can fund our businesses. I met fantastic and enthusiastic young farmers who are really doing amazing job in their home countries. I enjoyed being with like-minded people who brought light to my farming journey. To youth participants of the Regional youth forum I salute your commitment and keep your heads up we shall contribute to make agriculture a noble professional for African youth.