Asset or Risk? Repositioning Kenya’s Youth in Agribusiness
Africa has the world’s youngest population. As the Ibrahim Forum report observed in 2019, a staggering 60% of Africa’s population was under the age of 25 years. Additionally, the Population Reference Bureau projects that by 2030, the population of young people in Africa -those below 35 years of age- will constitute 75% of the continent’s population, accounting for 42% of the global population. Africa's youth bubble is double edged; an opportunity or a challenge.
It is crystal clear that the current relentless efforts in education investment should be met by an amiable environment- socially, politically and economically- that facilitate job creation by individuals, private entities and the government. Under such a trajectory, there will be economic development created by leveraging on the opportunities of demographic dividend. On the flip side, an unengaged youth population bulge could present a demographic burden which carries the risks of unemployment, poverty, instability and insecurity.
The die is cast, Africa’s economic growth to a foreseeable future will be dependent on bolstering human capital investment. In Africa’s pursuit of economic growth, a healthy, educated and productive young population is an integral tooth in the cog wheel. Fortunately, other than the Africa resourcefulness in youthful energy, it has 60% of uncultivated land that is suitable for crop production. As evidence of the underutilization of the two most abundant resources, Africa accounts only for 3% of the world food exports and suffers from high rates of youth unemployment. A nexus between youth engagement and utilization of Africa’s arable land presents a sheer investment potential. This is achievable by getting rid of some notable obstacles.
Agripreneurs are confronted with a very constrained financial condition. Most lenders are reluctant to offer long-term finances to mid-sized agribusiness ventures getting them stuck with short-term capital. The latter can be attributed to the lack of a convincing economic case that calls for research. In addition, young people lack the inspiration to venture into agribusiness that culminates in lack of skills. For youth to fill the agriculture productivity gaps, programs aiming to enhance their agribusiness skills and inspire young people to pursue agribusiness as a career path. In addition, such programs should foster foreign partnerships to facilitate capital investment. In practice, the AgriBiz program, being rolled out by Kenya Climate Innovation Center with the funding of European Union, is one such intervention with youth and agriculture productivity as its tenets. The program is anchored on the government's premise of the Big 4 agenda.
By Arnold Muthanga