Aceremony took place on September 14th 2107, at the headquarters of the African Development Bank, in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast kicked off the beginning of a program seeking for socioeconomic development on the African continent. This program is named the Young Technical Training Program (YTTP), the program will train young Africans in Brazilian institutions ranging from the broadest fields of knowledge, such as Information Technology, Health, education, infrastructure, and creative design industry. The first group of the program is sponsored by the AfDB itself and Embrapa, focusing on agriculture.
“I am optimistic this program will change the fortune of young Africans”, declares Sidi Touré, who is the Youth and Employment minister of the Ivory Coast. Africa has a contingent of 420 million young people ranging from the ages of 15 to 35 years old. Thus, the role of young people is essential for reaching the economic development and sustainable goals of the continent. Brazil, as it is a center for emerging global growth, it is endowed with the knowledge and experience the African countries need in order to learn in diverse fields of specialization.
“Brazil supplies a rich source of knowledge and experience to the African countries that can take advantage of various fields of specialization’, assures Chiji Ojukwu, who is the Agricultural and Agro-industrial director of the African Development Bank. “The agricultural sector, especially, that is the focus of the first inaugural class of YTTP, is in a field, where Brazil has been on the forefront in transforming and generating know-how. It has been able to successfully develop a net importer of foodstuffs that not only achieves food security, but it also has become one of the largest exporters in the world of agricultural commodities. This green revolution is a goal that the African countries are also seeking to achieve, thus, the collaboration with Brazil is extremely beneficial”.
30 young people have been selected for this first phase, ranging from the ages of 18 to 35 years old and coming from 16 different countries. They will be given training on the cassava productive chain, a vegetable considered crucial for providing food security for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa. The training will take place in Cruz das Almas, Bahia State, at the “Embrapa Mandioca e Fruticultura” (Embrapa Cassava and Fruticulture) center from October 9th to November 21st. “Brazil produces several products processed from cassava”, exclaimed the general director of the “Instituto Internacional de Agricultura Tropical” (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) (IITA), Nteranya Sangina. “My dream is to have greater collaboration among Brazilian and African young people in the cassava processing sector”.
The importance of agriculture
Currently, the average age of African farmers is 62 years old. In order for Africa to become self-sufficient in the future, it is necessary to prepare a new generation of young properly qualified farmers. The World Database reveals that agriculture contributes 32% of the GDP to Africa and provides 65% of the manpower on the continent. In many countries, 85% of the manpower is employed in the agricultural sector. Just this data, emphasizes the socioeconomic importance of Agriculture. On the other hand, this points to an even greater challenge: agriculture has the potential to do away with poverty and relieve hunger, but advanced technologies need to be employed and there need to be investments from public and private sources. Besides that, the younger population needs to be encouraged to work at this. Currently, there are an estimated 38% of young Africans employed in the agricultural sector.
“The YTTP is aligned to the ENABLE Youth Program, from AfdB that is directly related to two of the five priority segments: feeding and improving the quality of life for the African people”, remembers Hiromi Ozawa, CEO of the bank for Brazil, Argentina, Austria, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. “And this is just the beginning”, assures João Bosco Monte, who is president of the Brazil Africa Institute. According to him, the forecast is the number of participants will double and increase to 300 in 2018.
Mary Joseph, from Nigeria, grew up in the United States and about two years ago she launched a startup company named Farm Drive in Nairobi. It is a company for analyzing data to help small farmers to get credit from funding institutions. “We classify farmers and afterwards sell these results to funding institutions, so that they can perform risk evaluations”, she explained in her conversation with ATLANTICO.
The service is free-of-charge for farmers. The revenues come from funding institutions that now can harness a market made up by 50 million small farmers from all over the country. Throughout 2016, the company put a pilot-project into effect partnering with a micro-funding institution that offered USD$ 150 thousand to around 400 Kenyan farmers. “We wish to attract more funding institutions so there is a greater pool of capital resources”, adds Mary Joseph, who hopes to end 2017 by facilitating credit to 40,000 farmers.
Initiatives, such as YTTP seek to develop young people like Mary Joseph, who is only twenty and some years old, and innovate strategic sectors from acquired know-how from outside Africa in order to improve the quality of life of African people. “Going back and working in Africa, in the development sector, was something I was always passionate about”, she tells. “I am very passionate not only for Nigeria, but for the entire continent. And when you look at Africa as a continent, you need to look at agriculture, as it plays a very important role in the lives of people”.
“Africa will grow very quickly economically and the results from development will be better when we assure gender equality”, confirms Chiji Ojukwu, who is the director of AfDB. “The Bank is totally committed to accelerate gender parity within the institution and in all member countries in the region”. According to him, the selection for participants in YTTP will guarantee at least 50% female participation every year.
“The AfDB scope for Young People in the Employment Agenda intends to create 25 million employment positions and positively impact a total of 50 million young people in the next decade. YTTP will contribute to this goal, providing young people the necessary skills to become employees with earnings and thereafter set up their own businesses”, wagers Chiji.