AgYouth Lab project, a rescue operation—Vice President Yemi Osinbajo
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, has tendered his support for the joint AgriFood Youth Opportunity Lab project (AgYouth Lab) of the Michigan State University (MSU) and IITA, saying that the initiative will harness employment and entrepreneurial opportunities among African Youth.
Prof Osinbajo, who was represented by Ifeoluwa Adebayo, Special Assistant to the Vice President on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, at the launch of the project on 15 May in Lagos, expressed confidence in the project as a rescue operation for its beneficiaries.
The AgYouth Lab is sponsored by MasterCard Foundation to help 15,000 young people access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the fast-growing horticulture, aquaculture, poultry, cassava and oilseed sectors in Tanzania and Nigeria.
The project spans five years and will focus on youth aged 18 to 24 in major food shed regions surrounding Lagos and Dar es Salaam. It will also assist economically disadvantaged, hard-to-reach, and out-of-school youth transition into employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agrifood system, focusing specially on gender equity, aiming for equal representation of young men and women across its programs and addressing policy, training, mentoring, and other constraints that affect the ability of young women to start enterprises or obtain employment.
Speaking at the launch of the program, Alemayehu Konde Koira, the Senior Program Manager, Youth Livelihood, MasterCard Foundation, said that the program is one of the ways through which the Foundation is engaging the private sector to develop business opportunities for young people. He also expressed hope that the project will contribute to the organization’s effort in addressing some of the challenges faced by youth in seeking work especially in Africa.
“In MasterCard Foundation, we believe that investing in the youth is critical to economic development, so we invest a lot in them and we know that we are also on the right path with the AgYouth Lab Project,” he stated.
The AgYouth Lab project will respond directly to opportunities and constraints identified in the 2016 MSU and The MasterCard Foundation-Agrifood Youth Employment and Engagement Study (AgYees).
Soji Adelaja of MSU reported that a survey revealed that young people who are usually hit by the adverse economy can be productively engaged in agriculture. He added that the project will train its youth beneficiaries on the vast opportunities available for young people in the agricultural sector. The partners, according to him, will also work with the private sector to ensure that the youth are given better opportunities of getting decent employment in the sector.
“MSU is poised to address one of the most critical problems facing the continent—youth unemployment with our partners in Nigeria and Tanzania. We see great potential to expand youth agrifood employment both on and off the farm,” he added.
Adelaja also revealed that 20% of Africa’s population in Tanzania and Nigeria together represent an important opportunity for intervention in skills acquisition, job creation, and employment.
Kenton Dashiell, IITA’s Deputy Director General, Partnership for Delivery, said the long-term impact and experience of building the capacity of unemployed graduates to become employers of labor along the value chains in the agricultural sector will be adopted by the organization in ensuring that the AgYouth Lab taps the dynamism of Africa’s youth. He added that this will help transform Africa’s agrifood systems and build a brighter future for Africa.
He assured the partners of IITA’s commitment in implementing the project through its youth-to-youth platform.
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs will be playing a major role in assisting with the implementation of the program.
Selected Agripreneurs also shared their experiences and relayed their thoughts on how agribusiness can be adopted and sustained by youth as a means of creating decent employment.
Other partners in the project include the Venture Garden Group, Tanzania’s Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO); and Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology (OYSCATECH).