It is no surprise that the present generation of young people are tech-savvy, the use of technology comes easier to them than it would to people of previous generations. It is common to see young people who have no prior experience with a particular technology, navigate and become well-versed in it in just a couple of hours or at most, days. This is why several sectors of the economy have upped their tech game, not just because of the ease of business it brings but because it attracts the younger generation. Take a look at the financial sector, for instance, more youths are investing, saving, and trading through the use of fintech applications, in comparison to the traditional banking system. This can also be seen across several other sectors such as the architecture and construction sector. Thankfully, the agricultural sector is not lagging far behind.
Agriculture, particularly in Africa, has for a long time been perceived by its young people as “dirty work” reserved for smallholder, old, and poor rural dwellers; unattractive to the modern youth who see technology and innovation as the baseline for success. However, in recent years, we have seen a growing adaption rate of technology and innovation in the agriculture and food sector, leading to the slow, but steady growth of youth engaged in it, notably in sub-sectors that have a high concentration of technology such as processing, marketing and e-commerce. The use of technology such as drones, blockchain technology, and cold chain technology has also served as gravitational pulls towards the sector, as young people’s fascination with technology and innovation outweighs their preconceived notion of agriculture. All you have to do is look through the portfolio of several agri-tech founders, and you will see that they have left relatively well-paying jobs to enter into the agricultural sector. It is indeed refreshing to see the perspective of African agriculture gently changing from something youth venture into when all other option has failed, to an opportunity that they consciously choose to engage and embrace. But we still have a lot of work to do!
Yes, agriculture has a laundry list of barriers and challenges that need to be resolved, however, it is also a sector that has the capacity to absorb the large, and ever-growing, youth population in Africa, who can tap into its billion-dollar prospects and thrive. This is why technology is such a powerful tool. It is important that we keep pushing, ensuring that we attract more youths to the sector. This can only be done by changing the narrative around the African agricultural landscape from a ‘dirty, manual, poor-mans venture to a ‘tech-driven and profitable’ industry. This is why the work organizations such as Nourishing Africa are so important, not only do they provide agricultural entrepreneurs with the resources needed to scale their businesses, but also provide a platform for agripreneurs, from farm to fork, across the continent to connect, engage in peer learning and partner. Through platforms such as this, youths are able to come together, learn from one another and provide solutions to the various challenges they are trying to solve. It is a joy to see that about 10% of the agriSMEs on the Nourishing Africa hub identify as agri-tech businesses, leveraging technology and innovation to provide essential services in the sector.
Agri-tech is here to stay, and we should do all we can to encourage the younger generation to build this sector so that we achieve the audacious but attainable goal of being a self-sufficient and food-secure continent by 2050.
Welcome to the new era of African agriculture!