During one of the sessions at the Africa’s Food Systems (AGRF) 2023 summit, a conversation was held on whether youth inclusion in agriculture is a reality or a mirage. We all acknowledged that progress has been made but noted that there remains much work to be done. The urgency of achieving food sufficiency by 2030 was a persistent theme, igniting a lively discussion. Everyone had an opinion, and almost everyone agreed on the importance of youth involvement. But the real question is, “How do we amplify our current efforts to drive the needed change?”
Across the globe, youths are building amazing change projects in the agricultural space. During the summit, I met several young leaders driving impressive agricultural initiatives. I watched passionate young people pitch their agri-food change projects during Generation Africa’s GoGettaz competition and engaged in conversations with many others. As an African, I could imagine the economic, social, and political hurdles they’ve had to go through to bring their dreams to life. Several organizations like Generation Africa, AGRA, and many others try to provide economic support for the actualization of these change projects, but is that enough? With so many young people doing remarkable work, why do we not see them on our screens more often?
Organizations like NGIN, Generation Africa, and many others work tirelessly to provide platforms for youths to be seen and heard. Forums like the AGRF and WFF create an environment where youths can showcase their innovations, connect with like-minded individuals, and collaborate to drive the agriculture sector forward. It is certainly commendable, change is undeniably happening, but is it enough? As Courtney Davies, a fellow NGIN ambassador, rightly mentioned, “Out of all the 41 sessions across the entire AGRF conference, there was only one fully youth-led/moderated session, and it was by our NGIN team”. We need to increase these numbers. To amplify our current efforts, we must have more youth-led sessions at these conferences.
It’s valuable to offer youths the opportunity to share the stage with accomplished and experienced individuals, as was evident in many parts of the conference. Lucy Chioma, a fellow NGIN ambassador, shared the stage with the CEO of Syngenta, and Jhanira, another ambassador, sat on the same panel as the president of Tanzania. I am sure they will always appreciate the opportunity. We need more of those. But we also need more fully youth-led panels. And we need people to be there to listen. The youths who receive support, whether financial, advisory, or policy-related, need opportunities to express their thoughts. How much time do they get to speak when they share the stages with highly experienced and accomplished individuals? Who truly listens to them? Creating fully youth-led panels is a crucial step forward, but it’s equally important to invite experienced agricultural professionals to sit and listen. This should happen while providing even more opportunities for youths to learn from the experience and insights of these proven leaders in the agricultural field.
When I listened to the impact stories of the many youths at the summit, I was motivated to amplify my work in the agricultural space. This was probably the case for the many youths in attendance. And it will be the same for everyone when we improve our current efforts to increase the visibility of youths in the agricultural sector. We need the youths to inspire the youths. The AGRF summit provides clear insights on what we should continue to do and what we need to improve. We need more integrated panel sessions with experienced professionals and youths, as this is crucial for the younger generation to learn from their seasoned counterparts. However, we also need more fully youth-led sessions.