Africa youth agripreneurs call for more investments in agriculture research

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By Temitope Ponle
Abuja, Nov. 5, 2020 African Youth Agripreneurs have urged African governments to make provisions for agriculture research in their country’s budgets to strengthen the economy and reduce reliance on importation.

The agripreneurs made the call at the fourth African Development Bank (AfDB) African Youth Agripreneur Forum (AYAF) held virtually in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and presented by the Enable Youth programme.

The programme, presented as a three-part webinar series, has as its theme: “Driving Sustainable Nutrition and Gender Inclusivity in Africa’s Agri-Food Systems: Youth Agripreneurs Seize the Decade”.

The first session of the series aimed to discuss the relationship between sustainable nutrition and gender inclusivity within the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the bank’s Feed Africa Strategy 2025.

The session also sought to identify the required policies to create an enabling environment to address gender inclusivity and adequate nutritional status for all in Africa and the role of the youth in addressing these issues.

Ms Yvonne Otieno, the Chief Executive Officer of Miyonga Farms and an agripreneur charged participants to influence policies that would promote research and create value addition in the continent’s natural and mineral resources.

Otieno said that Africa needed to “research in business models that work and are different and inclusive” to promote services that could be considered as “things that add value”.

“So look at your country’s budget when it comes to issues to do with research; how much is actually put onto research into innovative ideas compared to other industries?

“Policies that promote research will be good. If we look at the current situation we have in Africa right now, a lot of what we export are raw materials.

“But we have the capacity to actually do value addition and create quality products but how well have we researched into the different value chains to know that from one product we can make different things that have different values and even become exporters of that commodity?” she asked.

She also tasked participants on the need to create business ideas that would be implemented to add value to their various communities.

“Now when it comes to policy issues because we are talking about nutrition and policy, this is where the power of partnership comes up because it is very hard to try to make a difference and solve a problem when you are on your own.

“But if you are part of a network and there is an industry issue related to whatever problem you are trying to solve, then together you can influence the policies that will make a difference.

“It is very hard to change the laws but easier to influence policies that get a faster turnaround time.”

Otieno also urged participants to take advantage of the benefits of the programme to get “access to people who have the knowledge, skills, techniques and networks” that would be required for the next level.

Also speaking, Sarah Pentlow, Senior Programme Officer, Gender Mainstreaming, Nutrition International urged participants to take advantage of new opportunities to partner with governments.

“COVID is creating further challenges but there is an opportunity particularly around the whole area of social protection programmes.

“In many ways, it is about the challenges that we hear about but I think there are opportunities too and social protection programmes are new opportunities to partner with governments to ensure the most vulnerable can still have access to adequate nutrition.”

Mrs Mondeny Fofana, a Member of Parliament, Côte d’Ivoire also advised the young agripreneurs to stand against any form of impunity in the sector and “popularise true nutrition”.

Fofana said: “We want the women across the world to be supported so that they can be fed and can feed the world in the most efficient and effective manner.

“The struggle is still ahead; we get to popularise true nutrition so that the unborn and younger generation will not be lacking good quality food nutrition.”

Also speaking on women inclusion, Mr Frantz Seide, Youth and Livelihoods Technical Advisor, Care International said it was a multidimensional problem that needed to be addressed in “solving some of the key systemic constraints”.

Seide said that addressing the constraints would ensure equitable livelihoods in the agricultural value chain were provided.

“It is from country to country, community to community, and that need for assessment to make sure we know the setting in which young women, young people are trying to make a living in the agro-system.

“We make sure we provide linkages with all stakeholders and have a community that is more empowering, enabling to make young people have the means, resources to take advantage of the opportunities of the sector.”

He said the sector was a competitive one and urged that the youth influence policies that would promote women and youth empowerment and to contribute meaningfully to the agri-food systems.

The AYAF is a networking platform that seeks to bring together young agriculture entrepreneurs “agripreneurs,” agribusiness leaders, agribusiness investors, environmentalists, academia, development partners and government agencies to work on facilitating youth entrepreneurship along the agriculture value chain.

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