Africa needs its youth to modernize agriculture

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Migration, both to urban areas and abroad, risks depriving African countries of the young people they need to modernize their agriculture sectors, which are key to achieving growth and prosperity, the UN reports.

“It is crucial that African countries also look at rural areas for agro-industrialization that can provide more opportunities for young people to find employment and remain in small villages and rural areas,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at a conference last month. According to the official, those who migrate from rural to urban areas are five times more likely to move abroad.

Graziano made the remarks at the Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference in Rome, which includes foreign ministers and other officials from more than 45 African Countries, as well as representatives from international organisations and the private sector.

During a panel discussion at the Conference, Graziano noted that economic growth in many African countries has slowed down in recent years and that the impacts of climate extremes have intensified, while conflicts continue to cause social disruption in some areas.

The overriding themes was that it is important for countries to define joint strategies and implement common actions, such as the recently approved African Continental Free Trade Area. In particular, agro-industrialisation can contribute to addressing Africa’s historical dependency on food imports.

Investing in infrastructure

Paving the way for agro-industrialization requires that we “urbanise rural areas,” and this means providing small villages with basic services, such as education, health, electricity, and internet access, which, Graziano notes is “one of the main attractions for youth nowadays”.

“Small villages should be the place where farmers buy seeds, send their children to school, and turn to medical care and other services when necessary. In Africa, it is very important to revitalise small villages through small agro-industries and cooperatives of family farmers.”

More investment in infrastructure is also important to connect producers, processors and other segments of the food value chains. This includes roads, transportation, storage capacity, energy, as well as water management. These measures are key to creating job opportunities not only in agriculture production, but especially in various non-farm activities, such as services provision in general and rural tourism.

A crucial partner

The private sector is a crucial partner, particularly in building the necessary infrastructure for economic growth and development. Through its relation with the private sector, the UN has mobilized knowledge, technical expertise, political support, in-kind donation and other resources, mainly in support of the poorest countries and communities.(

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