Wednesday, September 30, 2015

African leaders target agric business as AGRF opens

More than 500 leaders from over 40 countries are expected to attend the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which opens Wednesday in Lusaka, Zambia, just as AGRA will be releasing its annual Africa Agricultural Status Report. Also expected at the AGRF 2015 are high-level government officials, leaders of pan-African development organizations, representatives of youth and women’s organizations, academic experts, investors and agriculture business innovators. Conveners of this year’s AGRF with the theme “Walking the Talk on Youth and Women: Bringing Inclusive Agricultural Markets to Life” said the rapid rise of urban food markets across sub-Saharan Africa represents an unparalleled opportunity to drive development of African agriculture, and ultimately to engage millions of youth who enter the continent’s labor market each year. “The AGRF can generate huge momentum for policies and programs that support Africa’s famers and African-owned agriculture businesses to capture a bigger stake in the agricultural sector and rising urban markets,” said Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General, Common Market of East and Southern Africa. “Rather than meeting this demand through food imports, Africans need to grow, process, package and market the food consumed in our rapidly growing cities and towns.” During the forum, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) will be releasing its annual Africa Agricultural Status Report, which will be providing a framework for how agriculture can become a viable and lucrative option for Africa’s young entrepreneurs. Speaking on the theme of this year’s AGRF, the conveners said it is ape as it is coming at a time when Africa’s young population is searching for increased employment and meaningful opportunities. “Of the 10 million young Africans who enter the job market every year, only a minority find formal employment. “The African Union in 2014 pointed to the potential for agriculture-related jobs to employ at least 30 percent of African youth. Yet many young Africans are pessimistic about agriculture, because they see too many farmers and agriculture businesses struggling to survive,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA. “The good news is that economic opportunities in agriculture are much bigger than many realize, and with the right kinds of support, Africa’s rapidly growing food sector can become as much as a $1 trillion source of a wide array of financially rewarding opportunities for Africa’s youth, on and off the farm.” AGRF 2015 also comes during the African Union designated “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development.” “Agriculture is the largest employer of women, employing up to 90 percent of women in some African countries,” said Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, commissioner for rural economy and agriculture, African Union. “Women anchor rural economies. Yet they farm without secure land rights, remuneration or the machinery and technologies essential to commercial agriculture. Policies and programs that address these gaps and link rural farmers to urban markets can transform livelihoods for smallholder farmers.” The AGRF 2015 will define clear strategies to enable youth and women to engage in agriculture as a business enterprise and generate a triple dividend of improved food security, increased incomes and job creation. It will delve into issues including access to land, finance, energy and inputs, and the development of infrastructure, trade and markets, all with a particular eye toward overcoming challenges and expanding opportunities for women and youth.

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