Securing the future: How access to finance and land can drive youth agripreneurship

As a key stakeholder strengthening the ecosystem for young agripreneurs across Africa, Generation Africa – in partnership  with Microsave Consulting – recently conducted its annual survey which aimed to identify gaps and opportunities for African youths in the food systems. A total of 400 youth took part in the survey with 73% being agripreneurs, 15% being young professionals, 8% were still pursuing their higher education and the remaining 4% were not youth ( aged above 35) hence their opinions were not taken into consideration.  

Are young people aware of existing policies and do they engage in the policy making process? According to the survey findings, the majority of youth (80%) were aware of these policies, (11%) not sure and (9%) not aware of existing policies. About 73% of the respondents who had knowledge on current policies, reported they had aired their opinions on various proposed policies, with 36% participating in community-led  policy initiatives, 22% youth-led initiatives and 15% in government-led initiatives respectively.

Cross border trade which involves selling of goods to buyers in another country is a prevalent phenomena amongst young entrepreneurs. This initiative is further bolstered by the implementation of Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement (AfCTA) which aims to stimulate trade among African countries by removing tariff barriers. Majority of the respondents (43%) have a basic understanding of cross-border commerce processes and procedures meaning, they may have difficulties navigating the processes or  perhaps avoid them entirely and only 25% of the youths felt confident in their comprehension of cross border trade. Majority of the youth in the study (42%) believe that there is a need  to harmonize trade policies and regulations across countries, 23% prefer  increased investment in technology for trade, 20% were of the opinion strong political leadership is key and collaboration across African countries and 14%  suggested there is need to improve infrastructure.

Access to marketing information, enhanced logistics and supply chain management, online transaction payments, increased safety and security measures and the ability to participate in markets remotely were some of the factors identified that will contribute to more access to markets in cross border trade.

The survey findings also revealed that finance, land and water for irrigation are the most sought resources among young agripreneurs and this influences their decision on whether to venture into the sector or not. 63% of youth who took part in the survey reported they had difficulty in obtaining finance or credit from formal financial institutions, 23% had insufficient training or skills to effectively manage and utilize resources, 10% had limited access to land and 3% lacked access to natural resources such as water. 

The survey also sought to determine  the level of knowledge youth had on access to business development services as well as their  active participation in youth networks. A majority of them (43%) were aware of these programs and half of them had access to these services.

Surprisingly, about 80% of youth examined were aware of youth networks however, more than a half of them (54%) felt these networks are either difficult to access or ineffective in carrying out their mandate, while 14% have not had the opportunity to participate in youth network activities attributing this to lack of a collective platform to share their voice. 

Access to finance continues to be a major impediment to youth agripreneurship according to the survey which proposes formation and strengthening of youth saccos that allow youths to borrow within their own pool of money and; online peer-to-peer lending platforms connect borrowers directly with lenders, cutting out the need for traditional banks as intermediaries. These platforms enable individuals to borrow money from other individuals or investors eager to lend, often at competitive interest rates and lastly, provision of risk-mitigating youth-friendly finance products to cover the production and market risks.

Urbanization is a big contributor to scarce land in Africa with the majority of youth not in a position to purchase land due to inadequate finances. The survey recommends  leveraging digital technologies and geospatial data to create platforms for mapping and identifying available agricultural land. These platforms can connect young farmers with landowners while also providing clear information on land availability, leasing terms, and contact details. Land owners are also encouraged  to work  with young farmers by entering into agreements for land sharing or cooperative farming to allow young people to access land for agriculture while sharing resources, costs, and knowledge with experienced landowners.

On increasing information about cross border trade, the study recommends harmonization of  trade standards and regulations, especially in areas relevant to youth-led businesses, introduction of virtual trade missions and exhibitions for youth to showcase their products, connect with potential buyers, and explore market opportunities across borders and up to date online trade information portals that serve as centralized sources of trade-related information, including market profiles, customs procedures, import/export regulations, and relevant trade agreements. 

The study also proposes the  establishment of  youth advisory boards at various levels of governance that have decision-making power and the ability to provide recommendations directly to policymakers in order to boost youth engagement in policy debates. Policy hackathons or policy labs will provide youths a platform  to collaborate with policymakers, experts, and civil society organizations to co-create policy solutions and strengthen deliberative democracy models, such as citizens’ assemblies or youth parliaments, where young people have the opportunity to deliberate on policy issues, engage in constructive dialogue, and make collective decisions.

The survey findings were presented to the Generation Africa Ambassadors Group and will  play a critical role in shaping youth-focused interventions by partners aimed at accelerating youth job prospects in food systems.