The African Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN) Conference & Expo which held on 7th-9th March, 2018 in Dakar, Senegal with the Theme: Youth Engagement in Agribusiness, Trade and Investment, kicked off with a welcome statement by Dr Alex Ariho (CEO, AAIN). Giving a Keynote address by Ms. Fati Nzi-Hassane (Head of Skills and Employment for Youth Programme) (NEPAD) on ‘The Future of Jobs for Youths and Women in Africa: Agribusiness and Food Systems (Emerging Perspectives and Opportunities), she stated some of the opportunities for Agribusinesses in Africa with alreadyexisting arable lands and technologies identified as major opportunities.Ms Fati Nzi-Hassane further identified five (5) enabling conditions for increased youths and women participation in agriculture which includes:
a. The Policy environment – e.g. tax policy, labour policy
b. Access to market
c. Access to land which should be affordable for youths and women; and access to finance
d. Gender equality for youths and women
e. Proper level of productivity which has to do with developing the technical skills along agriculture as Agribusiness Incubators help to provide the needed skills for sustainable agribusinesses.
PANEL DISCUSSION 1
The first Panel Discussion session moderated by Solange Zawadi (TrustAfrica), was made up of eight (8) Panelists which were made up of Dr Abdulai Jalloh (DG, CORAF), Dr Ahmed Elsawalhy (AU IBAR Director), Mr. Krishan Bheenick (CTA), Mr. Edson Mpyisi (Director for Agriculture, AfDB), HE Rhoda Peace Tamuslime (AAIN Ambassador), Madame Khady Fall TALL (AFAO/WAWA – West African Women’s Association, President), Beauty Manake (Youth Representative) and Prof. Kandiuora NOBA (Director ISAE, UCAD); and with the issue discussed as ‘Why is Agriculture Important and Why Youths Should Go Into Agriculture’. Some important points stated includes:
• Agribusiness and value addition should be included in our curriculum even from the start of primary school; that’s the only way to really get our youths participate and have a good and early perception of agriculture.
• The market for agriculture must be created in the secondary or production sector to encourage greater participation in agriculture; because the youths view the primary sector as not encouraging or attractive to go into.
• Mr. Edson Mpyisi speaking about the African Development Bank’s Enable Youth Programme, pointed out the high fives of AfDB which are: Power up Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, and Integrate Africa.
LAUNCH OF THE AAIN BUSINESS PLAN
During the official opening address and the Launch of the AAIN Business Plan (2018-2023) given by the Chief Guest – HE Sacko Josefa Leonal Correa (Commissioner, AUC-DREA), it was pointed out that in Africa, the age of youths ranges from 15-35 years with over 1.2 billion youths in Africa. Also it has been estimated that 440 million people will enter the labour market by 2030. It was also noted that two (2) major challenges faced by women and youths involved in agribusinesses are Poor access to quality inputs and fertilizers and Poor access to finance.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY CELEBRATION
Celebrating the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, 2018, HE Rhoda Tumusiime gave a Keynote address on ‘Nurturing Innovation and Commerce & Technology Research: Focus on Women in Africa. With the theme of the #IWD2018: PRESS FOR PROGRESS (#pressforprogress), HE Rhoda Tumusiime stated the following:
• A woman must be empowered to have a say in the household and investment must be targeted on women.
• Women are recognized to be the best borrowers of loan because the loan default is very minimal.
• Technology is needed to empower women; and the Malabo declaration by CAADAP is focused on empowering women.
• We must include our youths and women to achieve the fight against malnutrition so that more focus will be geared towards fighting poverty.
PANEL DISCUSSION 2
The Panel moderated by Solange Zawadi (TrustAfrica) on the topic: Increasing Women’s Role in Agribusiness and Enterprise Development had four (4) Panelists made up of Elizabeth Nsimadala (EAFF); Naomi Kerring (Media Agripreneur); Mingue Niasse (Programme Manager, Africa Lead) and Ngabaghiha Chatata (MD, Thauthwe Farms). The discussion centered on the problem faced by rural women in agriculture which has hindered greater participation of other women; and Ngabaghiha Chatata pointed out that rural women in agriculture are not able to sell their produce after harvest because they are not producing in accordance with the quality needed by the market.
Thus in order to solve this problem, rural women farmers must be mentored to produce crops that provide the needed quality required by the market; so that they are able to sell off their products at good price and at the end, everyone is happy. Concluding the session, it was stated that women in agribusiness must provide support to other women so we can all make increasing progress. Further points stated were:
• Farmers must be provided with the direct linkage to buyers.
• Men must be empowered to empower women.
• There is the need to identify seasoned women entrepreneurs and ensure peer-to-peer mentoring for up-coming women entrepreneurs.
In conclusion, with several delegates and participants in attendance from all over the world, E-farms was well represented by her CEO, Divine-Love Akam in support of increasing the participation of women and youths in African agriculture.