With more than 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 years (comprising over 20% of the population and 70% of the population being under 30 years old), Africa‘s future seems bright. Young people usually bring new skills and abilities to the table, and tend to be highly competitive into sectors that use innovative technologies (such as ICT, social media or even agriculture).
But presently this is not the case in Africa. According to the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Youth Policy Case Studies, while approximately 70% of youth live in rural areas and represent almost 65% of the workforce there.
On average, 74% of the youth population in Africa lives on less than US$2 per day lacking the resources and skills to be competitive. With this potential, Africa’s transformation could have started “yesterday”. But because of poor support Africa’s youth can now consider themselves a minority.
Although access to education has been improved in the past years due to massive international support and many young brilliant Africans had the opportunity to study abroad, mass education is still unavailable, not because universities not exist, but because there is no standard at Africa level of how these programs should look like, what should they contain, what kind of skills should they develop and they are not linked to the everyday challenge of the African community.
Moving away from training young people as agronomists, but developing them to be food security experts should be a good start. Africa needs to focus its energy, passion and resources on solving those stringent issues that affect both its present and future. Although many say that (over-) specialization might end up killing the creativity in youth, I personally believe that if youth will learn more about a certain field of expertise, they will want to use/promote that knowledge through a multidisciplinary approach, being more inclined to acquire more information on how other technologies might impact their field and/or how their own field might influence other.
This simple process might end up being the most cost effective strategy that African policy makers can support in order to ensure that the future farmers, future policy makers, future leaders, future researchers and future drivers of Africa’s social and economic development will be the ones that will transform Africa’s future.
Building on Africa’s human capabilities starts with the FARA Africa Agriculture Science Week where a full day is dedicated to youth development and empowerment. On Day 2 (July 19th) the focus will shift from policy making to how we can practically feed Africa. Education and human resources development will constitute key points of the discussion due to the high importance of youth in Africa’s agricultural transformation. While reporting from side events organized by FARA, YPARD, CTA and others, the discussions will focusing on providing a quality education to students from African universities and how capacity development fits into Africa’s competitiveness strategies.
And to end on a positive note I would like to quote the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “The energy of youth can spark economies … The future belongs to them and they have a clear vision of the world we need to build together: peace, the preservation of our beautiful planet, the opportunity to make a better life.”