Speaking at the launch of the forum in Kigali, yesterday, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the minister for youth and ICT, cited mindset as the most crucial aspect holding back the youth from engaging in agribusiness.
The Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), has been launched to drive efforts geared toward changing youth mindset on agribusiness.
As the key driver of the country’s economic growth, agriculture sector employs more than 70 per cent of the population.
“When you ask what is really lacking for our youth to make their mark in agribusiness, you realise only mindset is the biggest challenge in transforming agriculture into a business-driven and oriented sector,” Nsengimana said, adding that all other aspects such as land, market for produce, skills, access to finance through banks are available.
To ensure sustainable food security, there is a need to change the mind-set of the youth, who constitute the majority of the population, taking into consideration the fact that the current farming population is ageing.
“The youth should know that rural areas are the ones with more untapped opportunities. For instance, instead of coming to the city to spend your time unemployed, think big on how to tap opportunities in rural areas,” Mukeshimana said.
“The government is working hard to make rural areas favourable to business by setting up basic infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity, which the youth should exploit.”
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, some agribusiness opportunities that the youth can exploit include 10 irrigation sites profiled and deemed suitable for private investment (4,903.80 ha), sub-lease of land developed in the Kigali marshlands (1,000 ha to be available) and agricultural land owned by parents or relatives, among others.
François Kanimbla, the minister for trade and industry, said agribusiness holds a huge potential for the youth to develop, explaining that top 10 opportunities have been identified in each district, which he urged the youth to exploit.
Some of the initiatives for youth development include Rwanda Development Board entrepreneurship development programme, Youth and Women Employment Project, Digital Opportunity Trust Programme, Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise, Opportunities for Youth Employment, Youth Livelihood and Business Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YES Rwanda), and Farming is Cool Initiative.
Hervé Gabiro Rutagengwa, the chief executive of Medmasoft Ltd, a company that develops applications and software used in agriculture, said the youth should take agribusiness as a sector with huge potential for their economic empowerment.
“As youth, we should know that agriculture is the first source of income for many people not only in our country but also in many other countries. It is also the main source of food for many people. This trendency should lead us to thinking big about how to take advantage of it and come up with successful business ideas in line with the sector realities,” Rutagengwa said.
In any case, all member states of EAC, should embarace agriculture as a key economic strength and not substitute it with other incoming opportunities.
We should embrace new opportunities for growth but not necessarily substitute them with the ones we already have. Agribusiness will remain a gold mine for Africa at large for decades, if not centuries to come and we should be looking at ways in which we can give better and more efficient output on this end