By Akanimo Sampson
The number of youths seeking employment in Africa currently surpasses the number of job opportunities available on the continent.
At the moment, 10 to 12 million youths are entering the workforce each year in Africa.
Consequently, policymakers in the continent are being called upon to adopt sustainable ways to address the rate of employment among youth across the continent.
In a study carried out by Esther Lombe Kwaambwa, under the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-sponsored CARE project being implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), youth unemployment, currently estimated at 23%, is projected to double with Africa’s youth population expected to exceed 830 million by 2050.
IFAD is, however, an international financial institution and specialised United Nations agency based in Rome, the UN’s food and agriculture hub. Since 1978, it has provided over $21 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 491 million people.
This is in keeping with the low rate of job creation due to general trends of low economic growth across the region.
This study on the employment status of youth in an agribusiness rural area used Livingstone, a town in southwestern Zambia, as a case study.
With scant employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young women and men in rural Africa, the study reveals that creating jobs for these young people requires urgent government intervention at the policy level.
Using agriculture as a peg, Kwaambwa’s study explored the significant role it has played in the area of addressing unemployment in rural Zambia.
The study states that a key focus should be placed on young agribusiness entrepreneurs, who combine the skills and talent, personal ambition, willingness to take risks, and resourcefulness needed to set up businesses that create much-needed jobs and improve the welfare of farmers and their community.
The study suggests that governments across Africa create policy measures that provide financial and tax incentives for new, youth-led agricultural companies while providing incentives to improve the quality of education and skills-based learning.
Kwaambwa’s study shows that providing opportunities for youth-led enterprises to showcase successful agribusinesses could go a long way to address the challenge of unemployment in rural Africa.
In addition, governments should institute training programmes for financial management skills, credit-worthiness checks, and provision of access to capital for young farmers and entrepreneurs, in conjunction with funding bodies and financial institutions to increase the impact on youth unemployment.
The study, sponsored by IFAD, under the IITA-led Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence (CARE) in Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa project, is targeting policymakers towards developing effective policies and agribusiness development in Africa.
In the meantime, the CARE project is engaging media intermediaries and policymakers to create and strengthen policy-making as well as programmes targeting youth to ensure that the issue of youth unemployment is tackled in rural Africa.
The project is implemented in Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia.