Two thirds of Africans depend on farming for their livelihood. The sector`s potential is enormous. The World Bank has estimated that African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $ 1 trillion in 2030.
However, agriculture is not attractive for African youth. To be a farmer is regarded as backbreaking, hard labour in the fields with meagre benefits. They have seen their parents, poor with ragged clothing, using old- fashioned equipment, always short of fertilizers and other inputs to survive. Farming is for the elderly and poor in rural areas
The upcoming generation of young people, often poor and irrelevant education, prefer to settle in urban areas in search of employment there.
If agriculture were to get the same political support and financial investment as mining sector, agriculture would be capable of providing more jobs with decent income. Reforms have to be introduced to mechanize and produce the agriculture more efficiently.
Urban people are often fed by imported food, which undermines domestic agriculture. Africa imports $ 34 bn of food annually, but could easily feed itself if agricultural productivity improved. Africa need to add more value to its natural resources before being exported.
The need to reverse decades of policy neglect and to increase investment in African agriculture is widely recognized. Some critics, however, argue that large-scale investment can marginalize Africa`s small scale farmers and open up for increased land grabbing by international companies with little understanding of local land rights
Some agricultural economists emphasise the potentials for a full range of investment options for promoting agricultural development as collaboration between small-, medium-, and large-scale players.
Foreign investment in agriculture is no necessarily “land grabbing”. The main reason why international land rush to Africa is providing bad news for rural people has to do with the complete failure of governance and lack of control of the decision making process. Large land deals are signed over the heads of local people, while greedy politicians are concerned getting their share of the investment.
Job creation for young people is more about political leadership and political will than about shortage of funds. When Asian countries were poor as African countries to-day, they decided to change their economies, starting with smallholder agriculture.
To invest in agriculture could benefit food security at both global and national level. But incentives and good policies need to be in place to attract young people to farming.