Youth employment is a critical concern and priority for African governments. The creation of job opportunities for youth in agriculture is important to reduce poverty and unemployment.
AfricaRice strongly believes that the growing rice value chain in Africa offers huge job opportunities for youth. Increasing rice production and upgrading the rice value chain will reduce reliance on imports, increase food security, reduce urban migration and give more of the regions’ youth valuable employment opportunities. It is essential, therefore, to develop attractive job opportunities in the rice sector for the young people by making rice value chain activities less labor-intensive, technology-driven, and profitable.
AfricaRice and its partners have developed ICT-based tools and small-machinery options for boosting the rice sector in Africa that could be attractive to youth who want to start a rice business or extension service (thus contributing to youth employment.) The Center and its partners are developing business models and opportunities for young people to be actively involved in rice value chains and earn attractive incomes.
Youth entrepreneurship and job creation
Entrepreneurship opportunities in the rice value chain: The project ‘Promoting youth entrepreneurship and job creation in West Africa’s rice value chain (PEJERIZ)’ demonstrates AfricaRice’s growing commitment to job creation, especially for youth. The project is targeting 1000 new jobs, increased revenues for up to 2500 smallholders, and reaching a further 15,000 rural youths with entrepreneurship opportunities through information and communications technology (ICT) channels.
The PEJERIZ project has been launched in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. It is mobilizing and building the capacity of youth through training in entrepreneurship, integrated crop management (seed and paddy), mechanized activities, business management, and marketing in Mali and Senegal. The training, coaching, mentoring and the diverse institutional arrangements (including contractual arrangements with the other agri-business actors, the national extension services, and local authorities) have helped to build trust between the financial institutions and the young agripreneurs allowing them to have access to finance.
As part of the project, the Syngenta Foundation is establishing 10 new Centers for Mechanized Services (CEMAs) in Mali and Senegal, which will provide a variety of mechanized services to farmers and other value-chain actors. The CEMAs are employing youth as service providers for both mechanized services and associated digital services (e.g. RiceAdvice app).
Youth entrepreneurship development through the IPs: The establishment of innovation platforms (IPs) and dissemination of technologies and innovations in the rice hubs – thanks to the ‘Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa’ (SARD-SC) and the ‘Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation’ (TAAT) projects – have been contributing to job creation for youth and strengthened relationships between actors along the rice value chain.
A major focus of the projects is youth entrepreneurship development through the IPs and increased involvement of the private sector, youths and NGOs in the dissemination of technologies and innovations. AfricaRice is integrating youths in the IPs with business opportunities. For example, in Nigeria, youths have been trained in the use of the ASI/ATA thresher developed by AfricaRice and given threshers to provide threshing services to farmers. Over 500 ASI/ATA threshers were manufactured by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), involving youth, and were sold in the beneficiary countries.
AfricaRice has built the capacity of over 460 youths (55% male and 45 % female) through the SARD-SC project in GEM parboiling technology, packaging and branding to improve the image of locally produced rice, farm mechanization tools, business plan development, ASI thresher and RiceAdvice (as entrepreneurs providing paid service to other IP actors).
RiceAdvice app: RiceAdvice, developed by AfricaRice to provide personalized advice to farmers on rice management practices in Africa via smartphones and tablets, is providing employment opportunities for young service providers. RiceAdvice is most useful to public- and private-sector extension and development agents and NGOs. The growing market for RiceAdvice recommendations means there are excellent employment opportunities for young service providers; the app will therefore also play a part in alleviating youth unemployment. The uptake of RiceAdvice will also increase demand for other agricultural services such as seed, agro-inputs, processing and marketing.
Rural Universe Network (RUN): The Green Innovation Center project led by AfricaRice in Benin introduced a new business model, called RUN, and established a network of partners and experts, and another of agricultural service providers, along with an online collaboration platform. It trained and created jobs for 440 service providers (72 of them women), reaching over 8000 smallholder farmers and over 50,000 individuals. The main result of the project is the operational framework for innovation and youth employment at large scale.
Capacity development of youth
Regional Training Center in Saint Louis, Senegal: The Training Center is regularly used to host skills enhancement of trainees on various disciplines of the rice value chain. It focuses on vocational training for youth, serving as a business incubation. The Center has identified 12 key jobs for women and youth in rice value chains. For each of these jobs, a curriculum corresponding to specialized vocational courses is developed for teaching at the Training Center with the participation of national experts.
Empowering African youths in agribusiness: In the area of capacity development and employment of youth, an MoU has been signed with the Africa Projects Development Centre (APDC), an Abuja-based for-profit organization focusing on incubating, training, coaching, mentoring and empowering African youths in agribusiness, project design and project management.