IITA Partners Mastercard To Produce 242,724 Nigerian Agribusiness Tycoons

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The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is partnering Mastercard Foundation in Nigeria to implement a robust Young Africa Works strategy.

The Youth in Agribusiness office of IITA that made this collaborative effort public says the partnership aims to enable 242,724 young Nigerian women and men to build skills and secure dignified and fulfilling work opportunities in the agrifood value chain over the next five years.

The IITA Agripreneur initiative is a youth in the agribusiness model that was established to address the issue of widespread youth unemployment and to provide a platform that propels youth toward self-employment in agriculture.

The issue of unemployment is a major issue among African countries because their youth, who constitute the largest population segment, feel marginalised from the economic mainstream and despite their best efforts find little means to meet their expectations for a better life.

Nor are they contributing in a meaningful way to the development of their country’s economy.

Higher education has grown faster than the economies they were intended to support causing large numbers of recent graduates unable to find decent employment. At the same time, there is a mismatch between graduate skill sets and those sought by employers, and youth with strong technical and innovation skills lack the necessary business acumen to become self-employed.

University graduates unable to find white-collar employment become demoralized as they return to their rural home areas or undertake menial jobs, and too often assume dangerous lifestyles. Pathways out of this dilemma were greatly needed.

IITA devised one such innovative solution. It gathered youth at its headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria in August 2012 and established a pioneering agribusiness incubation.

Forty youth were selected from intern applicants from the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, and rather than assign them to different IITA departments they were provided a common work-space and asked to develop enterprises built upon proven IITA agricultural technologies.

They were offered some basic coaching, but mostly they were left to themselves to implement pilot agribusiness enterprises.

Training and mentorship further alerted them to business opportunities along several agricultural value chains. They were uncertain how to move forward at first, and some members abandoned the group, but those remaining were provided technical expertise as needed and access to IITA farm resources, and then one after another learning enterprise was established.

Within a year, the youth were managing several enterprises built around cassava, maize, soybean, banana, vegetables, fish and swine. They also identified opportunities in value addition and ventured into food processing.

Development interests deservedly started to take note of this success and provided some additional modest support for their expansion.

By this time the group is known as Agripreneurs, and this support allowed them to formalize their operations and to expand into new parts of Nigeria.

It established incubation centers in Kano, Abuja, Borno, Imo and Onne. These new groups replicated some enterprises and ventured into new ones including sorghum, soybean, poultry and animal fattening.

IITA staff from Central, East and Southern Africa took note of their achievement and helped start even more groups in DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) also started to partner with the public and private sector to offer training and consultancy services to youth and farmers. And thus a movement was born.

Through the organisation’s incubation programme, unemployed graduate are trained, mentored and coached for 18 months and exposed to the business opportunity in the production and value addition of commodities like cassava, maize, soybean, vegetable, plantain and banana, fishery and piggery.

During this incubation period, they are taught on how to adopt the best technology in deriving the good yields, marketing strategy etc that can differentiate them among other competitors in the market.

Their mindset is changed towards ensuring that they embrace agriculture as a business and also an avenue to create jobs and employ other unemployed youth.

After the 18 months incubation program, the youth develop bankable business plans along the value chain listed above or agribusiness of interest to enable them access loans in commercial banks to establish their independent agribusiness enterprises.

Many youths who were trained under this platform have become CEOs of reputable agribusiness firms from Central, East and Southern Africa took note of their achievement and helped start even more groups in DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) also started to partner with the public and private sector to offer training and consultancy services to youth and farmers. And thus a movement was born.

Through the organisation’s incubation program, unemployed graduate are trained, mentored and coached for 18 months and exposed to the business opportunity in the production and value addition of commodities like cassava, maize, soybean, vegetable, plantain and banana, fishery and piggery.

During this incubation period, they are taught on how to adopt the best technology in deriving the good yields, marketing strategy etc that can differentiate them among other competitors in the market.  Their mindset is changed towards ensuring that they embrace agriculture as a business and also an avenue to create jobs and employ other unemployed youth.

After the 18 months incubation programme, the youth develop bankable business plans along the value chain listed above or agribusiness of interest to enable them access loans in commercial banks to establish their independent agribusiness enterprises.

Many youths who were trained under this platform have become CEOs of reputable agribusiness firms.

Young Africa Works, developed in consultation with young people, policy­makers, educators, and entrepreneurs, is Mastercard Foundation’s strategy that will enable 30 million young people in Africa to access dignified and fulfilling work over the next 10 years.

In Nigeria, Young Africa Works aims to see 10 million young Nigerians, the majority being young women, in work opportunities by 2030.

“Agriculture is at the heart of Africa’s economic transformation. It will profoundly define the future of work. Work is all around us, especially in agriculture (production, processing, financing, packaging, and marketing).

‘’We’re focusing on agriculture in Nigeria because we see these opportunities and we will work with partners like IITA to make them visible to young people”, says Chidinma Lawanson, Nigeria Country Head at Mastercard Foundation.

The Young Africa Works Strategy sets out an ambitious goal for the next decade: by 2030, our work will enable 30 million young people in Africa, especially young women, to secure employment they see as dignified and fulfilling.

Using youth employment as a key measure of socio-economic progress, we aim to help millions of people to find a pathway out of poverty.

As part of the strategy, we will deepen our engagement in some countries to better understand their economic aspirations and identify priority sectors for growth. Working with governments and the private sector, we will develop a long-term plan for each country of focus that will:

Improve the quality of education and vocational training so that they equip young people with the skills employers need;

Leverage technology to connect employers and job seekers, and drive growth; and

Enable entrepreneurs and small businesses to expand through access to financial services.

As we do this, we will continue to learn, share knowledge, catalyze innovation, and mobilize others across the continent.

The IITA project focuses on building innovative and inclusive agrifood systems for young people between the ages of 15 and 35 and will support them to secure employment or self-employment through entrepreneurship across three Nigerian states–Kaduna, Kano, and Lagos–over the next five years.

The project will leverage and scale existing IITA youth initiatives, including the Start Them Early Program (STEP). STEP is a mechanism that improves agricultural instruction in secondary schools in a manner that better directs career paths toward modern agriculture and agribusiness.

Partnerships with the Commissions of Education in each of the focus states will lead to a massive outscaling of the STEP programme.

In collaboration with the Enterprise Development Centre’s online learning platform, the digital STEP program, delivered through Young Africa Works, is expected to revolutionize agriculture teaching in public institutions of education across Nigeria. The program will also scale access to vocational education for marginalised young people.

The project will be implemented with several partners and the state governments. Youth-sensitive loan and agribusiness support programs will be developed with financial institutions that recognize the specialized needs of young people, especially young women, as agricultural borrowers. The program will aim to reduce the risks associated with young people obtaining credit for agricultural investment purposes.

“Our partners are well-positioned to provide the training, placement, and agribusiness support services required in the three target states of Nigeria. This optimal mix of partners will ensure that the project approaches reflect the special attention that the Young Africa Works strategy places on young women.

‘’The project will apply special approaches to empower young women in Northern Nigeria while considering cultural sensitivities”, says Evelyn Ohanwusi, Training Coordinator, Young Africa Works-IITA.

 

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