Farming Africa’s untapped giant
12 months ago, 1 Jan 10:46
Africa faces a gigantic population increase. In 2050 the continent’s population will reach 2.5 billion compared to 1 billion in the year 2000. It is also a very young population: 40 per cent under 15 years of age and 60 per cent under 25. Even if the population growth slows, which can be seen in some parts, the demographic transition has a time lag, so it won’t stop the population reaching 2.5 billion. So Africa needs to create 18 million jobs every year. Urbanisation is rapid, though more than half of the population is still living in rural areas. Where will we all find a job, a better life, an income, a future? Even food is hard to get in many places. Despite the recent hype of ‘Africa rising’ and comparatively high growth rates, economic development does not match the population increase. There are simply not enough jobs for the young. Of a working population of 24 million, one in every six young Kenyans is unemployed. Yet in Tanzania and Uganda, the figure is about one in 20. Kenya’s youth unemployment has remained constantly high for more than 20 years. Does the rest of the world care? In November the European Union held a summit in Abidjan with 80 African leaders, where the main theme was 'Investing in job creation for youth'. EU’s President Jean-Claude Juncker emphasised that the European Union is still Africa’s main partner, despite the increasing role of China. The immediate reason for the summit and what preoccupied European leaders was how to stop young Africans going to Europe. Though most migration takes place inside Africa, there are now nine million Africans living in Europe, mainly from the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Since the migrant crisis of 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken about a “Marshall Plan” for Africa, envisaging what the USA did for Europe after World War II. But the wider issue of what can be done in Africa to stem the flow is obscured by who is responsible for the perceived crisis. But where will there be jobs for young Africans? And how many? How is Africa going to handle the challenges, with or without outside assistance, so young people don’t leave? What sound policies can be put in place, which political priorities could make a difference and what developmental transformation could create the jobs needed? Infrastructure, manufacturing, technology and the internet come first to mind when one thinks about future work for young people — not farming and agriculture. In Kenya farmers are generally over 60 and are mainly commercial farmers, because small-scale farmers and subsistence farming are hardly counted. The traditional ways of producing food do not look sexy and are often shunned by young people. Yet, new technologies are also opening up opportunities for agriculture, slower urbanisation. This will create new ways to produce, market and consume foods and in the end jobs, an income. So can agriculture provide job opportunities for youth? Remember: Africa cannot feed its ...
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