In most African countries, the agricultural sector employs an average of 54 percent of the working population. The sector will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but opportunities should be explored beyond agriculture throughout the food chain in order to create enough jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva has said.
“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces” the linkages between rural areas and cities, he added. This includes processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and service provision, especially financial and business services.
Graziano da Silva spoke at FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa which is primarily dedicated to the theme of creating decent and attractive employment in the continent, the world’s “youngest” in terms of the average age of its population.
With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services. Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years.
“Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs”, which goes beyond farm jobs and seeks to develop capacity and scale up successful approaches through programme formulation and partnerships, Graziano da Silva said, pointing to FAO’s regional programme.
“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” the FAO Director-General said.
He warned however that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.
“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” Graziano da Silva added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production.