[Column] Bob Koigi: Towards a sustainable African economy: Leaving no one behind
In most African countries, a staggering seventy percent of all unemployed citizens are youth in the 18-35 age brackets in a regrettable state of affairs that the World Bank has described as a ticking time bomb.
In a continent that counts on the vibrancy and energy of the young people to attain mid level economic status, such dismal figures should jolt us into action. Women on the other hand form 80 percent of all smallholder farmers feeding a burgeoning population.
However up the number of those sleeping hungry grows by the end, especially now exacerbated by changing weather and new forms of conflict.
Yet for a continent that has been classed by research and policy institutions as so verdant and lush that it can feed itself and the world, it beats logic how any citizen can go on an empty stomach. Women and our youth are remain Africa’s sure bet out of the hunger labyrinth.
Countries like Mozambique or South Africa that have walked the talk in recognizing the role of these two all important constituencies in food production have had instant and impressive results.
A programme to incentivize youth into modern farming in South Africa transformed barren lands into towering maize plantations in the Kwa Zulu Natal Province. Within two years of the programme unemployment among the youth had been bridged by 40 percent with maize production shooting a staggering 2 million tones in the first harvest.
Yet in most of the African countries, the malady of women queuing to access credit facilities for their inputs to no avail and medieval farming practices that are a turn off for our youth have been our Achilles Heels.
Still the continent has perfected the government blame game chorus for all its woes. It is open secret that government chokes under a myriad of needs that competes for its attention.
Nowhere is this evident that in the agricultural sector. With the task of ensuring that the entire nation is fed, and there is surplus or mechanisms in place to hedge the country when its stocks run low, everything else usually appears secondary.
Yet even with such an unenviable task, it still has to formulate policies and enabling environment to keep market systems functioning meaning people producing not just for their consumption but for sale.
But the task has over the years remained a tall order even with the noblest of interests. With an understaffed, overburdened government it makes sense for the private sector to step in and offer viable solutions through partnering with the government.
A tried and tested model, public private partnerships have been instrumental in helping government reach as many of its as possible while creating an enabling environment for the private sector to manage to offer its services cheaply and conveniently to a critical mass.
They say little bits make the world, a contribution from the government and a commitment from the private sector is a panacea for creating a sustainable and productive continent.
Multiple award winning Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi is the Chief Editor of East Africa at Africa Business Communities