July 18, 2017 | By Alesha Black

Listening to Leaders Under 35: African Fellows Weigh in on the Council’s Next Report


"It’s more fun to be in the towns—not in the rural areas. There isn’t much entertainment for young people in the rural areas."

"Farming is often taken as a last resort, never as a business."

"The biggest challenge we have with agribusiness is information….It’s like the information is hoarded."

"Young people want a get-rich-quick scheme. Agriculture does not pay quickly, so people go for something else, like real estate."

"In the rural areas land is passed over [generations] and a lot of it doesn’t have titles. Land is often marked by a tree or other natural landmark. If someone comes in from urban areas and clears everything, including a tree, there’s not even a way to identify your land anymore [if you don’t have official title]. This urban-rural issue can really be a problem."

"There is a lack of opportunity in rural areas as compared to urban areas. Youth in rural areas won’t go to school, won’t have access to the right infrastructure. The gap between urban and rural is therefore expanding."

These are some of the varied voices the Council heard at its first consultation for next year’s Global Food Security report. The Council hosted over 20 fellows from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in our offices to help us understand the changing experience, challenges, and opportunities facing African youth. This impressive group, participating in the Northwestern University Washington Mandela fellowship program, are business founders, activists, and nonprofit leaders. Even though they are largely not agricultural professionals, they had a good sense of the challenges faced by their generation and insights to share about what they see for young people coming up behind them.

As the Council has highlighted many times, Africa’s young population, which currently has 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, stands to double by 2050. If you take into account children under the age of 15, it’s clear the continent and the world should be focused on preparing for an unprecedented wave of young people—young people who will be looking for education, opportunity, and employment. As a majority of Africa’s population is still rural, so is this young population, which means agriculture and the broader food supply chain (such as transport, processing, agro-inputs, marketing, and retail) must be part of the equation that will ultimately result in their prosperity and progress.

The YALI fellows highlighted too many issues to count, from land security issues to corruption, finance, and simply lack of information. They highlighted what’s broken—but just as often, they pointed to ways they or others are working to fix it. After all, while this is the youngest Africa has ever been, it’s also the most educated, and these young people are coming of age during a technological revolution. There’s work to be done, but there’s also money to be made and reason to be optimistic. The Council heartily thanks the YALI fellows for their time and insight, and we look forward to speaking to many of you in our network and beyond as we dig into this topic more in 2017.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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