Dr. Akinwunm Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) wants African leaders to encourage the influx of more African youth Agripreneurs, judging by the continent’s landmass and population.
Addressing a team of International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) who visited his office at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, he estimated that the size of Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness sector, will be worth $1 trillion by 2030 and therefore offers loads of opportunities for youth who have the heart to go into agribusiness.
Adesina said youth entrepreneurs in the agric sector, he noted, can create employment and also generate wealth from the myriads of opportunities the sector will soon provide them.
He said that through youth involvement in agriculture, Africa can significantly reduce the continent’s $35 billion annual food import bill, while appreciating the institute for its IYA model that has now taken a foothold in the continent.
A statement by IITA quoted Adesina as saying the achievement of the youth is driven by passion, commitment, and vision with no deterring factor of fear, mistakes, and obstacles. These virtues, according to him, are enough to encourage stakeholders in the sector to invest in the youth.
“As a bank, if we want to invest in things, we want to know what your internal rate of return is, your cost-benefit ratio, and payback period. But I can tell you, the greatest thing that you should be investing in is not just the general rate of return. Invest in those that have passion and vision because nothing can pull those down. Those are what I see in people seated here today and what I saw in 2014 when I said I was seeing a different vision and continent with a youthful population that has decided that they can unlock Africa’s greatest potential, which is agriculture. I didn’t know I was going to be the President of AfDB at the time,” he added.
The AfDB boss also commended the IITA and particularly its Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, for institutionalizing the Youth in Agribusiness Programme and appointing a young person to lead the unit.
For him, “we want an Africa where our young people make us proud. I was a scientist in IITA and in IITA we were very rigid. It was science all around, but Sanginga sent a different message—that science doesn’t stop in the labs and research, doesn’t stop in the research stations. After all if agriculture which is the foundation of why CGIAR was established dies because young people are not there and we have just old people, then all the research that is being done will be totally useless. You had a vision and that is what I think you feel the future should be.”
Adesina added that the youth would be beneficiaries of the new financing initiative of the bank called BOOST AFRICA, a blended finance initiative that supports early stage and start-ups (small and medium enterprises) in Africa with a special focus on youth and women. The initiative is expected to begin this year in partnership with the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Adesina said the progress report received from all the IYA hubs motivated his decision to ensure that the business plans being developed by the youth receive funding for kick-off.
“My own vision is to support you through the following instrument: We just launched last week what is called the BOOST investment program with
the EIB. The total amount we are investing is 263 million Euros. And it is exactly about young people investing through venture capital funds, business incubator facilities, accelerator programs to turn the business of young people and to bring it alive. We are going to link you immediately to that BOOST investment because I learned you are working on your business plans so that the first step of investment will be in you. The bank will support you in ‘unusual ways’ as you have also decided to take agriculture as ‘business unusual’,” he said.
The Executive Director of the Bank, Bright Okogu also speaking during the visit, enjoined the youth to persevere and continue with the hard work as “the future of African agriculture lies in their hands”.
“I am optimistic that you will join the Forbes list of the richest people in Africa. I have seen what you have done and know what you can do, so keep the fire burning and the sky is your starting point. And because of what you are doing, a new word—agripreneurship—has been fashioned and in few years, it will be included in the Oxford English dictionary.” he said.
The representative of the Minister of Youth in Côte d’ Ivoire, M. Kouadio Kouame Jean Louis, said the country’s agric sector is dominated by old people who are becoming too old to actively take on the sector as a business. He said the IYA model was an eye opener to how the youth in the country could be productively engaged and encouraged to embrace agriculture as a business. He said with youth in agriculture, the country’s GDP would increase as the agriculture sector is a pillar in the country’s economy. He added that the country is ready to take part in the initiative.
Also commenting, Sanginga said the pains of seeing young people jobless after years of studying in higher institutions pushed him towards establishing the youth Agripreneur movement. Giving a picture of how the IITA gate looks on the first day of every month, Sanginga stressed that graduates of different disciplines queue in hundreds to seek low-paying casual jobs at the Institution.