The President of African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina has urged African youth to tap into opportunities in the agriculture sector.
“What Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world … Who drinks oil, who smokes gas? But you all had breakfast this morning…The food business is a big business but we have to make it a cool business for youth. Young people have to get into agriculture and treat it as a professional career, not as a way of life, and not as a developmental activity,” Adesina said.
He spoke as a member of a panel discussing Africa’s youth population, jobs and migration, during the Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
According to him, it was not enough to talk about Africa’s potential, such as the oft-cited figures about the continent’s burgeoning youth market: the potential has to be transformed into outcomes.
The Bank had launched the $374 million ENABLE Youth programme in 2017, which aims to support over 300,000 youth-owned businesses.
Six projects with ENABLE Youth components have been approved for a total of $774 million, and 15 ENABLE Youth projects are included in the Bank’s 2017-2019 project pipeline.
Agriculture, he explained, is one of the areas where the Bank was investing in young people. It had also initiated funds worth more than $200 million to support high-risk enterprises, fin-techs and other youth-owned businesses.
65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa and the sector could generate a market of $1 trillion by 2030. “You want to be a billionaire? You want to be a millionaire? Get into agriculture,” said Adesina.
Adesina also noted that the fate of young and old were bound up together, “if young people did not prosper, they could not contribute as taxpayers, potentially restricting pension funding for their elders.“ We must invest in hope. The young people, they are the hope of the continent. And that is not a conversation for tomorrow. It’s a conversation for today.”
The Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend brings together some of Africa’s most influential political, business and thought leaders, civil society, and multilateral institutions.
This year’s event focused on African migration, one of the major factors to affect the continent over the next decade.
The Foundation is the brainchild of Mohammed Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British businessman.