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The dynamics of rural-urban youth economic empowerment

climate agric

Nana Adwoa Amponsah Sifa is a young Ghanaian graduate Agripreneur with hands on experience in food security and strategic management from Africa, Europe and Asia.

She shares the experience of her initiative, Guzakuza, a venture with the mission to transform the mindsets of young women to go into agribusiness to be job providers and not job seekers.

“The young people know what they want and they are ready to take up their destinies into their own hands,” she said, emphasizing the need to involve young people in decision making processes.

Guzakuza in Swahili means ‘grow’ and Nana wants to grow wealthy agriculture entrepreneurs, mainly women from Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

The venture has recognized a need among the rural youth who have jobs but are underemployed, hence earn less from the abundant opportunities.

Meanwhile, young graduates roam the urban streets in search of non-existing white-collar jobs.

The combined burden of a youth bulge and shrinking job market have left millions of young people jobless, underemployed and excluded from economic opportunities.

Under Guzakuza, the ‘Ignite’ program has been developed to connect the rural and urban young woman to help address the challenges of lack of capital and capacity to be successful in agribusinesses.

This year, 15 beneficiaries are receiving a six month intensive skill incubation which involves mentorship and internship to learn on the job.

“We want it to be as practical as possible because we’ve had enough of the theory in Africa,” said Nana Adwoa, who is among young people who participated in the 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum (ARDF) in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The Forum, which is under the AU/NEPAD Rural Futures program, was held under the context of youth employment and its attendant dynamics of rural development, farming systems and agriculture food markets.

“Whilst developing national strategies and action plans are important, making a better inroad in transforming our rural areas through job creation for youth calls for a decentralized approach to designing and implementing policies for employment and skills development,” said Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong, Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination Directorate at NEPAD Agency.

She also advocates a reformation of the tertiary education systems so as to reconfigure the future workforce in Africa towards needs and tastes of a youthful continent that produces and consumes its own value-added products and services.

Research indicates that the proportion of rural youth is decreasing in all sub-regions as well as the absolute number of rural youth, with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa where their number will continue to increase until 2030 or 2040.

Lack of access to relevant entrepreneurship training, technology, credit and finances in both urban and rural contexts are huge disincentives for youth to engage in business.

Projects like Guzakuza builds synergies with organizations like Agri-Impact Consult which offer technical support to agribusiness start-ups.

Executive Director of Agri-Impact, Dan Acquaye, has a 20 year experience as an agribusiness development expert, nurturing and growing agri-business SMEs in Africa.

He has observed that “much as we have a lot of young people moving from rural areas to urban areas, we also see some of the young people moving from the urban areas going into the rural areas; I think what is driving the movement from one place to the other is the ability to exploit opportunities”.

Mr. Acquaye says rural industrialization should not only focus on farming but the entire agri-business value chain “and the young people have ideas on how they can turn most of our post-harvest losses in rural areas into businesses”.

The 2016 Yaoundé Declaration and Plan of Action for Africa Rural Transformation has recommended, among others, the need to build on the comparative advantage of youth by investing in hard and soft rural infrastructure, including ICT to build the capacity of youth to leverage on the rural-urban nexus.

“We really want to move from that picture of looking at subsistence agriculture; we want to look at agriculture as a business which will attract young people into it,” noted Estherine.

Young agripreneurs like Nana Adwoa believe a deliberate attempt to integrate youth economic empowerment programmes in national policy frameworks will help advance both rural and urban economies.

 

By Kofi Adu Domfeh

 

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