African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina has said the best way to retain Africa’s rural youth in their farming communities is by investing in the agricultural sector and making it attractive.
“We must ensure that small farmers, the majority of whom are women, are supported to have accelerated access to improved farm inputs in order to raise agricultural productivity.
“If agriculture works, we can keep the young people in rural areas,” he said, adding: “Making agriculture a business would then help solve some of African cities’ problems.”
Adesina made the observation when he joined a panel in Accra, Ghana on Saturday November 23, to discuss the development of African cities on the theme: “African Urban Dynamics.” The meeting was organised by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The policy makers, practitioners, members of civil society, local government officials, and representatives of development institutions discussed issues concerning increasing slums with poor social services, lack of access to water and sanitation, growing insecurity, air pollution, huge traffic congestion, among key challenges facing African cities.
Adesina noted that people, especially the youth, leave rural areas for cities not because they like the cities that much, but simply because they lack opportunities in their rural environments.
In his view, if Africa’s rural youth could get the expected returns from their agricultural activities, they may be amenable to staying in their communities to farm rather than trooping to the cities in search of better opportunities.
The situation, Adesina said, is made worse by the lack of basic services which human beings are entitled to such as infrastructure, health and education.
Slowing down the flow of people to urban areas, albeit difficult, can be achieved by making rural areas attractive by turning agriculture into an attractive venture, he said.
The panel was chaired by Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University. Other members included Aisa Kirabo (Deputy Executive Director, Assistant Secretary General of UN-Habitat) and Henri-Bernard Solignac-Lecomte (Head of Unit, Europe, Middle East and Africa for the OECD Development Centre). The discussions were moderated by BBC Presenter Zeinab Badawi.