The fertile soil of Africa could hold the key to economic development by giving young entrepreneurs an opportunity to become part of the next generation of billionaires. The African Development Bank believes that global consumer demand for farming products is something that the Continent should rise up to meet; to this effect, a youth program called Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) is being rolled out across in various African nations.
The ENABLE program is one of various efforts that have been launched over the last few years for the purpose of advancing agricultural business in Africa. The idea of farmers as future billionaires was suggested in 2015 by Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture; the rationale is that Africa has the potential to enter global value chains beyond mining and oil extraction.
A New Purpose for African Farming
Traditionally, farming in Africa has served two purposes: subsistence and national development. The African Development Bank believes that it is time to explore the lucrative business opportunities offered by the agricultural sector. Africa has plenty of land for farming; more importantly, the Continent is home to 420 million young people between the ages of 15 and 35, which means that the farming sector can benefit from a large labor pool. In fact, one of the goals in this initiative is to boost youth employment in the region.
Through programs such as ENABLE, young people are empowered to become agricultural entrepreneurs. Since the focus is on farming as a business, young Africans will have more fields to specialize in. The opportunities include aquaculture, dairy farming, poultry, food sciences, agricultural engineering, gourmet coffee, and many others. The ENABLE program hopes to create more than a million farming jobs and 300,000 business enterprises over the next few years. By switching from subsistence farming to cash crops, young people will have more business and employment opportunities to help them reach middle class status. In the current agricultural sector situation of many African countries, farming jobs are poorly compensated; this is something that can be improved by opening the sector to the global markets.
During the 2017 World Food Prize symposium, officials from the African Development Bank explained that this initiative to turn Africa into one of the most important farming regions in the world will require partnerships with financial institutions and with key members of the African diaspora.