The bulk of the world’s 1.2 billion young people, equivalent to 88 per cent, live in the rural areas of developing countries, and seventy-five million are unemployed. Within sub-regions, there are important differences among countries: in Africa, the highest proportion of rural youth live in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and in Southern Africa. While agricultural development is key to shared prosperity and poverty eradication through value chain development and multiple entrepreneur and job creation options, the youth populations have benefited little dividends from it due to many factors. Among other factors, are: the lack of sustained rural infrastructure investments in the rural areas, limited access to natural resources, low level of value chain development in the sector, lack of tailored financial products they could tap into, the migration trends coupled with their limited participation in policy processes.
The agricultural sector holds significant potential for the promotion of decent jobs - not only in production but across the entire value-chain - while also meeting growing food needs. Exploiting this potential is vital particularly in Africa - the youngest and fastest-growing continent in the world - given that in Sub-Saran Africa alone, over 16 million young people will enter the labour market every year until 2030, mainly in rural areas. These young people represent a tremendous opportunity and untapped resource for the development of the continent. Tapping into their potential for innovation and entrepreneurship can help reap the demographic dividends of this young vibrant workforce and transform the youth bulge into a window of opportunities. Promoting entrepreneurship and innovations will strongly contribute to changing the image of the sector for youth attraction and decent employment.
Continental frameworks such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme ( CAADP) and the Malabo Declaration of June 2014 give strength to the commitment of African Heads of States and Governments to creating the enabling environment for agricultural transformation and for empowering youth to benefit from emerging opportunities. These frameworks seek to pursue an inclusive agricultural growth and transformation through, among other initiatives, job creation for youth in value chain development and agribusinesses opportunities.
The challenge for policy makers, the international community, private sector including the youth is therefore to engage in policy dialogue aiming at developing entrepreneurship opportunities in the agro-pastoral industry for the youth populations to tap into. Bold and more ambitious actions will reduce the trend for migration, create sustainable jobs along all value chains and improve access to social services.
It is also essential that the youth be empowered to tap into those agro-pastoral business opportunities through South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC), appropriate skills development and participation in policy dialogues at the national, regional, continental, and International levels. Through this modality, and building on their capacity for innovation, the youth can develop affordable and locally-relevant technology that draws on the skills, knowledge and experiences of partners in similar contexts in the Global South.
It is against this background that the Government of Cameroun, in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations System in Cameroon, and PROCASUR, are organizing an International Youth Summit which overarching objective is to highlight the potential of youth for a sustainable rural transformation, as well as for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in West and Central Africa.