Investing in Africa’s rural youth can work wonders for continent: Report

Africa’s youth bulge and the fact that most of its people live in rural areas, make this especially important

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 22 January 2020

Economic growth has always been a concern for Africa, especially the sub-Saharn region of the continent. Several countries of the region routinely place poorly in various indicators related to human development and well-being. A new study has suggested a way out: Invest in the youth in rural areas.

Sub-Saharan Africa's population has grown 2.8 per cent annually over the last decade. The numbers of young people in the region are expected to increase to 350 million by 2050, pointed out the The narrative on rural youth and economic opportunities in Africa: facts, myths and gaps, a report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Roughly half of the continent's population, including the youth, live in rural areas. Thus it was important to invest on the rural youth, the report suggested. It was released in January 2020.

Where to invest?

Investmenting in agriculture, education and skill development can go a long way in helping the economies grow in rural areas, according to the report. It also underscored the importance of helping young women and the ‘disabled youth’.

Most of the youth in rural Africa were employed in the agriculture sector and are expected to join Africa’s agri-economy in the coming decades in large numbers, the report said. They will benefit especially from investments in agricultural research and development and in market access to farm inputs that can increase productivity.

Migration from rural to urban areas can also be stopped if land was made more accessible to the rural youth. The report also identified ‘climate-resilient agriculture’ as an area that needs investment.

The report also calls for investing on rural young women, who may have dropped out of school because of being married and having children at an early age due to social norms in rural areas.

Special programmes should be designed to enable young or would-be mothers to return to school. Skills learned in these programmes can help these women to take better care of their infants or even avail employment, the report said.  

The report urges investment in education and skill development of rural youth, especially taking into account the evolving nature of agrifood systems.  

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