Agri-Food Systems and Youth Livelihoods in SubSaharan Africa
October 4, 2016 - Author: T. S. Jayne, John S. Holtzman, Felix Kwame Yeboah, Jock R. Anderson, and James F. Oehmke
IDWP 150. T. S. Jayne, John S. Holtzman, Felix Kwame Yeboah, Jock R. Anderson, and James F. Oehmke. 2016. Agri-Food Systems and Youth Livelihoods in SubSaharan Africa
As part of broader efforts to address major global challenges―such as climate change, urbanization, gender equality, and nutrition―Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, hosted a series of Roundtable Discussions in early 2016. These meetings brought together a diverse set of specialists to identify new emerging issues and strategies for effectively achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Toward this end, Feed the Future assembled 44 academics and representatives of African governments, field-based youth programs and development organizations on May 17, 2016 in Washington, DC for the Youth & Employment Roundtable Symposium. This report summarizes the evidence and discussion presented at this Roundtable, with a particular focus on youth livelihoods and employment and implications for the development of food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. We conclude by summarizing views expressed about emerging opportunities and challenges facing African governments associated with the huge influx of young people into Africa’s labor force and the broad strokes of a strategy that anticipates
and responds to these opportunities and challenges.
The world will experience unprecedented demographic shifts during the 21st century. The share of the world’s population living in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will have risen from 12% in 2015 to 36% in 2100. Africa will exert growing impact on the world economy, including the global food system, and this impact will be largely determined by young Africans between 15 and 35 years of age who now account for 55% of the region’s labor force. Every
year, roughly 11 million young Africans are entering the labor force. Under the most favorable projections, only a quarter of these new workers over the next decade will find wage jobs. Agriculture and the informal sector will need to absorb most youth into gainful employment or Africa and other regions of the world will face escalating challenges resulting from youth under-employment.
Over the past 15 years, African governments that have effectively promoted farm productivity growth have enjoyed faster rates of poverty reduction, higher rates of labor productivity in the non-farm segments of the economy, and a more rapid exit of the labor force out of farming. Because the economies of most African countries still depend largely on the performance of agriculture, public investments in support of agricultural productivity
growth will remain a crucial component of an effective youth employment strategy. Often considered more of a burden than a benefit, Africa´s youthful workforce could open up a wide range of economic opportunities in farming, in the downstream stages of agri-food systems and in the broader non-farm economy with the right mix of policies and public investments toward agriculture.
African governments would be well served to adopt a multi-pronged youth livelihoods strategy: First, focus on investing in agricultural productivity growth to create new opportunities for youth in farming and generate the multiplier effects that expand the number of job opportunities for youth in the broader off-farm economic system. Second, invest in education and skill development to enable young people to derive more money and satisfaction from the opportunities that arise. This means redoubling public investments in basic, secondary and tertiary education, vocational and technical training, and soft skills. But more research is urgently needed to determine what forms of education and skill training provide the greatest payoffs to young people, recognizing that the answers are likely to differ across Africa given wide differences in economic conditions.