Listening to Africa’s Future Farmers
With African countries facing a youth employment crisis, agriculture, the continent’s biggest industry, is increasingly seen as a crucial part of the solution. And one of the best ways to lure young people back to an aging sector is by increasing their access to technology and innovation.
NAIROBI – Africa is in the midst of a youth employment crisis. By 2035, some 350 million new jobs will be needed, and agriculture, the continent’s biggest industry, could provide the bulk of them. But at the moment, young Africans are shunning life on the farm for work in the city. If Africa’s employment gap is to be closed, agribusinesses must find ways to recruit younger hands.
This challenge was the focus of my research as part of the Youth Think Tank, a youth-led research initiative in partnership with Restless Development Uganda and the Mastercard Foundation. In a recent report, we examined the experiences of young African agriculturalists in seven countries. And what we discovered is that the best way to entice young people back to the farm is by improving access to and engagement with emerging technologies.
Many of the young people with whom we spoke said that their biggest obstacle to a career in farming is learning the digital and technical skills necessary to succeed in today’s agricultural market. With technologies like cloud computing, soil sensors, and weather drones changing how food is produced, packaged, and distributed, digital literacy is as important as arable land and high-quality seeds. It stands to reason, then, that if more young people could master digital skills, more would find work in the field.