Each year the global youth economic
opportunities that focuses on a few key issues. This year’s spotlight is on youth,
agriculture and rural development. One out of every eight people in the world
is in Africa. Sixty-two percent of Africa’s population is below the age of
25. Young people aren’t interested in production. They’re not interested in the
back-breaking labor of their fathers. They want to be working in businesses
that are associated with agriculture that are not production agriculture. The
rate at which the non-farm jobs grow is so dependent on how fast agriculture
grows. Anticipating how to respond to this youth issue in Africa is going to make a
huge impact not only in Africa. We’re sort of at a crossroads in terms of
our thinking about Africa right now. This session on day one is going to really
deal with that issue. Do you target the poorest of the poor and really try to
directly pull them out of poverty or do you focus on where the commercial
agriculture is happening and generate these sort of growth processes that will
give rise to non-farm job growth and pull people out of farming into non-farm
activities. I think most of us at least in the academic community agree that you need to focus on agriculture but where in agriculture is really crucial. Where do we target our programs?
And, I think that this conference is also going to have to grapple with that issue,
too. Farming is actually a really risky activity. Many organizations are looking
at the role of technology as a way to lure youth back to the farm or to keep
them on the farm to begin with and there’s some mixed results. It’s interesting to see how many of
these programs really focus on the technology itself or the way technology
can make youth feel more connected to each other and not so isolated on the farm. I’m excited about the new technology
tools that we are able to offer to farmers and farmers are finding
themselves and using themselves. Everything from better weather
prediction to micro climate prediction. So is it going to rain on my side of the
mountain or not? Being able to track their outcomes. It’s really interesting
watching farmers taking photographs with their simple mobile phones of their crop
over time so they can remember it next year and look back on it and see when
the crop was at certain points of maturity. So it’s beautiful to see how
something as simple as a basic mobile phone is actually really empowering farmers to
improve their agriculture outputs. It’s very crucial for non-farm job growth to
have agricultural growth moving and if governments don’t make the kind of
investments necessary to make youth thrive including in farming, it’s going to be
very difficult. Some things succeed some things don’t and the only way we’re
going to learn is if we talk about both. It’s really a sign of innovation. It’s a sign that
we’re pushing the envelope and we’re trying to get from pilots to really country
changing innovation and scale. I think differentiating between rural and urban
is really critical. Rural youth are different than than urban youth. They’ve got distinct needs, distinct ideas, attitudes and distinct challenges. These are still open questions and I’m excited about the opportunities to think about that at the youth economic opportunities summit. The synergies that come out of meetings like this can be really, really good.

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