Participants and stakeholders during the Agrifood Youth Development Lab launch

Mary Ekah

According to research, more than 60 per cent of Africa’s young people are jobless or unemployed and formal job creation efforts in Africa’s growing economies have been insufficient. Furthermore, comprising 20 per cent of Africa’s population, Tanzania and Nigeria together represent an important opportunity for intervention in skills acquisition, job creation and employment.

Bearing the above statistics in mind, a five-year $13 million collaboration between Michigan State University (MSU) and the MasterCard Foundation, on an initiative tagged, ‘Agrifood Youth Development Lab’, which will help 15,000 young people access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the fast-growing horticulture, poultry, cassava and oilseed sectors in Tanzania and Nigeria, was recently launched in Lagos.

The partnership will support 15,000 youths between the ages of 18-24 in major bread basket food shed regions surrounding Lagos and Dar es Salaam to access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

The project will give youths the skills they need to build their own businesses and in turn create additional employment opportunities for other out-of-school youths. Ultimately, the initiative seeks long-term impact by building the capacity of local organisation, working directly with the private sector to help youths transition to quality agrifood employment, addressing key policy constraints and reducing the cost of expanding youth employment for youths.

Agrifood Opportunity Lab will encourage youths to participate in the fast growing horticulture, aquaculture, poultry, cassava and oilseed sectors in Nigeria and Tanzania. The partnership will also assist economically disadvantaged, hard-to-reach and out of school youths as they transition into employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the Agrifood system.

The programme, the organisers said, would also have a special focus on gender equality, aiming for equal representation of young men and women, while addressing policy, training, monitoring and other constraints that affect the ability of young women to start enterprises or obtain employment.

Based in Toronto, Canada the MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organisations to provide greater access to education, skills, training and financial services for people living in poverty in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world.

On its part, MSU has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 160 years. As one of the top research universities in the world, MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery and forges enduring partnerships to solve the most pressing global challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programmes of studies in 17-degree-granting colleges.