African agriculture needs innovation and youth. As rural to urban migration leads to more young people leaving the countryside for desk jobs and wealth in the cities, agriculture often suffers the most. While African countries struggle with food security, a large number of young people do not find agriculture an attractive industry. This has many implications for the continent as a whole, as most African farmers grow crops for their own consumption, leaving governments to rely on imports for this basic need.
Agribusiness is an opportunity waiting to be uncovered by Africans; some even say it is Africa’s biggest opportunity. There is a need for African farmers to step up and grab a piece of the growing demand for food as urbanization grows. Alongside this is the need for improved crop varieties, access to fertilizers and other tools that mechanize farming. This is where the Africa Food Prize comes in. The new award the wants to reward outstanding African individuals and/or institutions working in agriculture with $100,000.
The Africa Food prize started as the Yara Prize in Oslo in 2005 but has been rebranded and renamed to focus on the continent. It grew out of Kofi Annan, former UN secretary-general’s call for a green revolution in agriculture and initially offered a $60,000 prize for the winner. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, elected to chair the Africa Food prize, recently argued that agriculture is the answer to providing job opportunities for the millions of unemployed African youth.
The prize hopes to attract young people, encouraging them to embrace agriculture. This could potentially be the answer to the food crises that play out over and over again in parts of the continent. From famine and drought to the recent lack of tomatoes in Nigeria. There is a need for an Africa where agriculture is not mainly for subsistence but rather for entrepreneurs, too. Perhaps initiatives like the Africa Food prize can spearhead this reality.
Is providing monetary incentives the answer to making agriculture attractive to African youth? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta