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Sierra Leone Business: A huge potential to address unemployment

For the African continent to achieve sustainable development, more jobs must be created for young people, including in the digitalized agriculture sectors, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture (UNFAO).
“We need to take action to make agriculture more attractive to young people,” underscored José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the Youth Employment in Agriculture Conference last Friday 24 August 2018, in Kenya.
“Africa governments must perceive agriculture as a remunerative and profitable sector and the dissemination of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural areas play an important role in this regard,” he added.
Over 60% of Sierra Leone’s estimated population is under the age of 25 mostly living in rural areas, according to the UNDP.
Yet, there is a growing uncertainty over the country’s preparedness to tap this precious resource, which requires that millions of rural area jobs be created annually for the Sierra Leone to harness the dividends of its youth.
Growing population means growing food demands, Graziano da Silva noted that due to continued population growth, rapid urbanization and dietary changes accompanying rising household incomes, Africa’s food demand is projected to grow in the coming years by more than 50%, providing “an invaluable and untapped potential” to address youth unemployment challenges, albeit amid numerous constraints.
Lahai Brima pointed out that young people are usually employed on a casual or seasonal basis, with limited access to relevant education and technical training; limited access to finance, information and markets; and low involvement in decision-making processes.
“These constraints become a bottleneck that also impede young people to start an agricultural business of their own. As a result, young rural people are migrating to the cities. In the coming years, more and more of the agricultural activities and employment will require digital skills,” he stressed, calling cooperatives “the best way to provide family farmers and young professionals with technical assistance, capacity building, and access to modern technologies.”
Youth employment should be at the centre of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Sierra Leone, Adama Turay, coordinator, Youth Centre for Scaling Agricultural Productivity in Rural Communities stated.
The young people who enter the labour market, Turay said, “But many see few opportunities in the agriculture sector and are constrained by a lack of skills, low wages, and limited access to land and financial services. Combined, this makes them more prone to migrate from rural areas. Fostering sustainable agriculture and rural development is essential to absorb these millions of youth looking for a job.”
Turay added that to engage youth in agriculture and rural development, youth participation and leadership in producer organizations and other rural institutions to engage in policy dialogue is essential.
Secondly, she stated, government should stimulate private sector investments to create a modern and dynamic agricultural sector and value chains, and to build infrastructure needed for agricultural investments. Thirdly, provide rural areas with better services such as electricity, education and health. The fourth step is to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political links between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas. Graziano da Silva also encouraged youth to “think beyond farm jobs” and explore employment opportunities across the agri-food chain, such as in food processing, distribution, marketing and retail.
This “new kind of rural transformation” means equipping rural areas with basic services such as education, health, electricity, internet access and so on. “These services are themselves another important source for employment, especially for women and young people,” he said.
SV/25/8/18
By Sylvia Villa
Monday August 27, 2018.

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