Research on youth has shown that learning, challenges, exchange of ideas, sharing of solutions to peculiar problems and mentorship are useful in ensuring their success in whatever sector they find themselves.
This is no different for youth in the agricultural sector irrespective of the point of the value chain they find themselves.
To drive home this message was one of the objectives of the African Development Bank (AfDB) when they organized a two-day summit dubbed the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum (AYAForum) on the 25th and 26th of April 2017 in Ibadan, Nigeria. The AYAForum was hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and brought together many over 200 youth who are actively involved in the agriculture sector: agribusiness or related value chains from all over Africa. The aim of the summit was to connect the youth to business and development organization, showcase success stories and the huge potential of agribusiness across the value chain. It was indeed an opportunity for participants to connect, learn, share and build partnership for the greater good.
Generally it is a challenge to have all the key elements of youth and agriculture discussed in two days. However, this program was very informative and practical. It covered thematic sections and areas such as innovative financing, the role of mechanization and digitalization, green jobs as well as how incubation and startup acceleration programs can change the narrative of youth involvement in the agricultural sector.
It is noteworthy to mention the good mix of both young and senior professionals at the program. This allowed for a balance in thoughts and experience exchange. All the panel sessions had youth present either as a panelist or as speakers. One of the interesting part of the two-day event was the debate on the topic “Government should subsidize financing for youth in agriculture”.
The team that spoke in support of the motion won the debate. They spoke convincingly in defense that the government needs to subsidize financing for youth in areas such as insurance, grants and loans, guarantees over bank loans and helping to secure market price.
Another session of the forum was the Agripitch organized in partnership with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). Two days before the AYAForum, twenty youth agripreneurs from across Africa were trained and mentored in the act of effectively pitching, design and idea development, protecting technology and presenting their business ideas. The twenty youth were shortlisted to ten who later presented to the participants of the AYAForum. The varieties of business already running across board were a delight to listen to. They showcased the beauty of the agricultural value chain and how identifying a core and developing solutions and services could create wealth, jobs and ensure food security.
At the end of the pitch, three top contestants were selected to attend the AfDB Annual Meetings later in India where they will present their pitch. The winner will be rewarded.
The engagement was encouraging and helped to shape the thinking of many young people. Listening to other youth share their experiences helped others realize they are not alone in this journey. The success story also proved further that with patience, hard work, perseverance and an enabling environment agribusiness turns out to be rewarding. The event also afforded the senior professionals, private sector player, government and development partners an opportunity to see through the youth and realize ways they can shape their programs, initiatives and create more room for young people to grow while providing needed support.
The ball is now in the court of young agripreneurs to go back inspired and motivated to action. It is hoped that the next edition of the AYAForum will showcase more success stories- especially youth who have learned from this edition and gone forward to put the knowledge gained to use.
It is important to also appreciate the AfDB and all the partners who invested time and resources to ensure the success of this event. These are the organizations that partnered AfDB to make this forum a success: IITA Agripreneurs; CTA Agrihack & Youth Farmers Network; African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN) Incubates and Mentors; The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Youth in Agribusiness and Advocacy Network; Africa Lead (USAID) for Youth Champions in Agribusiness Network; Young Professionals in Agricultural Development (YPARD) ; ANAFE Students on internship and incubation; Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Youth in Agriculture Network; African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD); Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Youth and Agribusiness Students; FAO supported Agribusiness youth networks and mentors; EYE University Network in Nigeria; Ministries of Agriculture from various countries and regions.