Today is International Youth Day (IYD), a day designated by the United Nations with the sole purpose of creating awareness to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding the youth. It was first celebrated on 12th August 2000. It is an opportunity for governments and stakeholders to draw attention to issues affecting the youth globally. This is done through workshops, concerts and meetings. In Kenya, the international youth week 2019 was marked with events in Embu, Samburu, Nairobi and the main is currently underway in Kwale county. The theme for this year is ‘Transforming Education’ (SDG 4) in order to achieve the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. Previous themes have been safe spaces for the youth, mental health, peace among others.
With Africa having one of the highest levels (70%) of youth unemployment and underemployment in the globe, the question would be how to transform our education systems to solve such a problem. Agriculture remains Africa’s surest path to prosperity. Looking at a number of statistics will show one area where governments could focus on to solve this problem. Africa is a net importer of food, with a bill of 30 billion Euros per year and could triple by 2025. The continent also happens to have the most arable land in the globe. In addition, 65% of the population is youthful (yet the average age of a farmer is 60 years) and the food market is projected to increase from the current 300 billion USD to 1 trillion USD by 2030.
These statistics show that transforming our education to encourage youths to take up agriculture both as a subject and a career would be a game changer. There is also a need to challenge the concept of agriculture jobs being ‘dirty’. The agrifood chain is long and has careers ranging from IT (app developers), Engineering, Finance, Marketing, Retail and Distribution.
However, transforming education alone won’t be enough. African governments must honor the Malabo Declaration or Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) on spending at least 10% of their budgetary allocations on agriculture. The funding should go to projects like irrigation since over reliance on rain fed agriculture remains a challenge. Tax reforms and properly administered subsidies are necessary in order to make agricultural products competitive locally.
As we mark the International Youth Day 2019 under the theme of transforming education to achieve SDGs, African governments should relook their efforts in encouraging youths to pursue careers in along the agrifood chain. They should also establish other supporting policies as the challenge is not linear and requires a holistic approach. By this Africa and the globe in extension will make progress in reducing poverty (SDG 1) and ending hunger (SDG 2).