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Young people should tap huge untapped potential in agriculture

By Waithera Gaitho | September 5th 2021

Waithera Gaitho, Vice-Chair, ICT & Youth Sector Board, KEPSA. [File, Standard]

One of the most pressing challenges among Kenya’s educated youth is unemployment.

According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya’s literacy rate for those aged between 15 and 24 years has oscillated between 82 per cent and 94 per cent. Approximately 35.7 million Kenyans (75 per cent of the population) are below 35 years. Some 13.7 million (29 per cent of the population) are aged between 18 and 35 years.

To ameliorate the problem of unemployment, the growing population of young Kenyans should exploring the continent's huge market of 1.2 billion people (projected to reach 2.5 billion people by 2050) and a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars.

This provides a massive opportunity for Kenya where manufacturing has remained stagnant at 11 per cent of the GDP for over a decade. Kenya exports only US$11 of processed agricultural products per capita, compared with South Africa's US$83 and  Côte D'Ivoire's US$77.

This is an opportunity that the youth should exploit. They should realise that education is not necessarily meant to earn them jobs, but to furnish them with knowledge to solve societal problems, identify gaps to fill then get rewarded for it.

The youth should look at farmlands as huge agribusiness opportunity, after all, 32 million of those aged below 35 years live in the rural areas.

Post-harvest losses stand at 20-50 per cent in numerable value-chains. They can choose to blame brokers for post-harvest losses or view the predicament as an opportunity for agro-processing. They can choose to look at 80 per cent of Kenya as arid and semi-arid or see a mammoth opportunity for innovation in irrigation.

Youth can explore new products and services along the innumerable value-chains or  choose to inherit the hoes of their forefathers or migrate to the urban areas where formal employment has stagnated at three million jobs for about two decades.

This year’s International Youth Week was themed: Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health. But the bitter truth is that food systems will scarcely transform without mindset transformation.

Partnerships between the youth and the public/private sectors should be nurtured in a symbiotic mutually beneficial environment. Cognisant of that, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) has partnered with various arms of government, development partners, SMEs and Captains of Industry to ensure that youth-driven enterprises across diverse sectors are equipped for business development.

An example is the KEPSA Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Training and Mentorship Programme that has a county outreach and is positively impacting on SMEs, majorly run by youth across to help them achieve a better future.

Youth may as well tap from the wisdom of Dr Akinwumi Adesina, president of the Africa Development Bank, who said “millionaires and billionaires will not be coming from the oil and gas sector, rather from the agriculture sector.”

Ms Gaitho is the Vice-Chair, ICT & Youth Sector Board, KEPSA

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