Fortune News | May 13,2023
Aug 28 , 2021
By Adesuwa Ifedi
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to Africa's people and economies, but across the continent, communities and nations are on the rebound. To truly succeed, this economic comeback will need to create millions of jobs for Africa's booming youth population. African policymakers and business leaders must look to agriculture – a sector of vast and still untapped resources – to secure a productive and sustainable future for food.
There have been lots of dire warnings about the food situation in Africa, and there are indeed many reasons to be concerned. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains, upending many farmers’ precarious livelihoods that are already being hit hard by the climate crisis in new and unsettling ways. It is easy to think that we are on an unalterable path toward a crisis of food security in Africa – but it does not have to be the case.
The future of food in Africa is in the hands of African farmers – particularly our young farmers, of whom we are in desperately short supply. About 60pc of Africans are under 25 years old, but the average age of an African smallholder farmer is over 60. Too many young Africans view farming as exhausting work with antiquated tools for very low pay. One rarely hears an African under 30 say, “I want to be a farmer.” And many parents shudder at the thought of their children going into farming.
If we are going to secure a sustainable future of food in Africa, these things need to change. We need to show agriculture can be a major source of jobs for the future.
Heifer International [where the author is a vice-president] released a report this month revealing why youth are turning away from agriculture. It also highlights a major opportunity to evolve the sector and bring them back. The survey, which drew responses from some 30,000 young Africans across 11 countries, found that only about one in four young farmers has access to the kinds of agricultural technologies that are transforming food production around the world.
These “agritech” tools include things like digital sensors that monitor soil health and digital platforms that connect farmers with market opportunities, technical advice and high-quality inputs. The fact that many young African farmers lack access to these kinds of tools puts them at a severe disadvantage.
We also found that with the appropriate financing, training and access to technologies, many more African youth would seriously consider pursuing a career in agriculture. The survey, which included focus groups with farmers and tech companies, revealed evidence of a rapidly growing cadre of agritech start-ups operated by creative, young Africans across the continent. By encouraging and supporting this new generation of agritech innovators, we can boost access to labour-saving and transformative technologies for huge numbers of smallholder farmers across Africa.
These young, innovative entrepreneurs understand the farming struggles of their parents’ generation. But they also believe farming can provide a promising future for their generation. In Ethiopia, a group of young engineers is providing drone services for analysing farm performance and a mobile application to help farmers detect crop disease. A start-up in Nigeria is using machine learning to guide farmers from seed to market – helping them choose what to grow, how to grow it and where to sell it. Farmers from Senegal to Kenya can sign on to receive SMS alerts on important weather updates, market insights and farming advice.
With these kinds of tools and technologies, young African farmers could better manage, or even avoid, many of the challenges they reported in the survey, from climate shocks to crop pests and disease. These technologies have the power to make smallholder farmers much more productive, profitable and sustainable – and to make food production more exciting and attractive for a new generation.
Financing and supporting these companies are powerful ways of creating a virtuous circle in African agriculture: successful youth-led agritech companies lead to more successful young farmers and a more dynamic and profitable agricultural sector. Their success then creates an even bigger market opportunity for agriculture innovators that encourages more investors to get involved.
But this future will not just magically appear. Governments and businesses alike need to invest in African farmers and encourage them to develop and adopt agritech innovations. The need for this investment grows more urgent every day. During the pandemic some 40pc of agricultural organisations supporting smallholder farmers were forced to close at least temporarily, while more than a third lacked the capital they needed to recover, according to our survey.
The pandemic has exacerbated an already difficult situation for African farmers, with climate change looming as a bigger threat. But when I talk to the young people running African agritech firms, I detect no sense of gloom. These young people exude energy, ideas and optimism. They represent an entire generation that has the potential to transform African agriculture for the better. That gives me hope for the future. In a time filled with hardship, we should embrace their vision and make it our own.
PUBLISHED ON Aug 28,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1113]
Fortune News | May 13,2023
Viewpoints | Jun 19,2021
Commentaries | Feb 06,2021
Viewpoints | Sep 28,2019
Sunday with Eden | Jun 22,2019
Radar | Oct 31,2020
Fortune News | Nov 09,2019
Fortune News | Feb 06,2021
Fortune News | Sep 18,2022
Radar | Sep 24,2022
Photo Gallery | 82369 Views | May 06,2019
Photo Gallery | 74510 Views | Apr 26,2019
Fineline | 58332 Views | Oct 03,2020
Fortune News | 58178 Views | Jul 18,2020
Commentaries | Nov 25,2023
Life Matters |
My Opinion | Nov 25,2023
Sunday with Eden | Nov 18,2023
Agenda | Nov 25,2023
Editorial | Nov 25,2023
Dec 24 , 2022
Biniam Mikru heads the department of cabinet affairs under Mayor Adanech Abiebie. But...
Jul 2 , 2022 . By RUTH TAYE
On a rainy afternoon last week, a coffee processing facility in the capital's Akaki-Qality District was abuzz with activ...
Nov 27 , 2021
Against my will, I have witnessed the most terrible defeat of reason and the most sa...
Nov 13 , 2021
Plans and reality do not always gel. They rarely do in a fast-moving world. Every act...
Leaders of the National Election Board are in a charm offensive mood, of a sort. Last week, they organised a rare tour for members of the me...
When the country's most senior diplomats and envoys return back to their posts after two-week debriefings, they leave behind a point or two...
Nov 25 , 2023
Ethiopia's quest to develop a functioning capital market is a demanding yet not unach...
Nov 18 , 2023
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has made a fervent call for landlocked Ethiopia to ga...
Nov 11 , 2023
In November last year, a ray of hope pierced the gloomy skies of Ethiopia as the Pret...
Nov 4 , 2023
In the corridors of economic policy-making, a quote often attributed to Albert Einste...
Nov 25 , 2023
Awash International Bank (AIB) posted a striking surge in net profits, reaching 6.9 b...
Nov 25 , 2023 . By BERSABEH GEBRE
A new regulatory measure Djibouti's customs officials enforced led to importers being...
Nov 25 , 2023 . By MUNIR SHEMSU
Minister of Health Lia Tadesse (MD) has displayed her ambition of rolling out a three...
Nov 25 , 2023 . By DAWIT LIDETA
A year after the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed between the Tigray People's Liberation Front(TPLF) and the Federal government...
Or see contact page