Agriculture is obviously Africa’s golden heritage but the continent is struggling to feed itself and far beyond the dream of feeding the World.
The primary concerns associated with Africa’s agriculture includes the depleting age of smallholder farmers, policy issues, absence and low technological use, improper use of machines, and ultimately, lack of youths in agriculture, coupled with low skills set for agricultural transformation.
Thinking of Africa, the three possible thoughts that come to mind are: Africa has the world’s fastest growing population including the youth; Africa remains a net importer of food and has 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
Opportunities are well spread across the agricultural value chain. For example, cassava has several value chain operations from production to consumption. Africa has the potentials to grow her economy through agriculture but in advancing and realizing these potentials, efforts have to be in place from different stakeholders including government, the private sector and donor agencies.
Changing the settings of agriculture in Africa, AGCO, Your Agriculture Company (NYSE:AGCO) a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and solutions, and its partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 25th September 2017 to inaugurate the first ever junior agribusiness management course, known as the AGCO Agribusiness Qualification Program (AAQ), with partners - Strathmore Business School (SBS) in Kenya, Harper Adams University in the UK and Kenya-based The Bridge Africa to develop skills, leadership and strategic expertise to drive African agricultural prosperity.
After several strategies and implementation, the continent of Africa, AGCO and partners celebrated the launch of the new AGCO Agribusiness Qualification (AAQ) program at Strathmore University in Kenya on 6 March 2018. The programme has admitted its first cohort of 20 young people from Kenya and a Nigerian in its first intake.
The speech – powerful to ignite a spark
Leading the speech, Dr. George N. Njenga, Dean Strathmore Business School discussed on the insufficiency of farmers to produce efficiently and effectively and thus, identified the importance of machineries, technology and right policy to address food security issues, post-harvest losses, operational inefficiency and ultimately, build the capacity of youths on future farm methodologies.
Gary Collar, AGCO Senior Vice President and General Manager Asia-Pacific and Africa expressed delights on the new era of agribusiness education in Africa. Also justifying the African context in terms of growing population, he stressed the need to change the mind of the youths and create attractive approaches to attract them into agriculture.
The AAQ was initiated by AGCO as a direct response to broaden knowledge, attract and develop young talent in the crucial agribusiness sector of Africa. Gary said, “The management skills the 20 students will gain will help in making a difference in African agriculture and help in tackling the current recruitment challenges the industry is facing.”
Hon. Zeinab Hussein, Permanent Secretary for Post Training & Skills Development, Republic of Kenya, discussed the program replication, sustainability, joint-effort supports and documenting the success story of the 20 students to become role model for other youths.
The launch – earring a new era of Africa agribusiness
Preceding the official launch of the AAQ program, a video documentary of the 20 students was shown for the participants at the launch. The program logo was then unveiled by the Dean of Strathmore Business School; AGCO Senior Vice President and General Manager Asia-Pacific and Africa; Permanent Secretary for Post Training & Skills Development, Republic of Kenya; AGCO Vice President and General Manager Africa and the SBS Agribusiness Program Director.
The panel discussion – a focus on action
Solutions and recommendations are constant expectations from any panel discussions. The launch of the AAQ program witnessed a panel discussion chaired by Oscar Kimani. The panelist includes Nuradin Osman, Hon. Zeinab Hussein, Dr. George N. Njenga and Aliyu Abdulhameed MD/CEO NIRSAL.
The seasoned panelists centered discussions on the need to change the image of agriculture in Africa, attract more young talents into agriculture, land fragmentation issues and solutions, irrigation, financing for farmers, mechanization and financing mechanization services, upscaling smallholder farmers to advance their production and, cooperatives for optimal agricultural operations.
The take-home – Inspired to act
The simple answers to attracting and retaining youths in agriculture, especially in Africa are evident in the words of Aliyu Abdulhameed, Nuradin Osman and Dr. George N. Njenga respectively:
“Youths must operate across the vertical and horizontal agricultural value chain using science, technology and innovations and thus, remove drudgery and poverty in the image of agriculture”
“We don’t need people in the field, we need value and efficiency – machines. A good way to attract youths into agriculture”
“Africa can learn the global value chain of food through developing a sense of ownership”
My takeaway as one of the AAQ trailblazers is, beyond being energetic and smart, youths need to green-innovate or the continent remains food insecure.
The news on the launch of the AGCO Agribusiness Qualification program was published in over 20 global websites such as AGCO Africa newsroom, Harper Adams University newsroom, African Union Foundation and CNBC Africa.
Photo credit: 1) AGCO 2) Andy Wilcox