Professor Eric Danquah, Founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana (UG) has reiterated that agribusiness is a game changer to Ghana’s youth unemployment issues.
Professor Danquah, who is also the 2018 Laureate, Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA) said with the burgeoning youth populations and rising youth unemployment rates in Africa, the contribution by agriculture to poverty reduction would only be sustained by the inclusion of youth in the sector.
He said that some challenges facing the agriculture sector in Africa are low technical and entrepreneurial skills, limited opportunities, and inadequate awareness of agriculture by the youth.
He said with agriculture being the economic base for many African countries, it was a sector that could absorb the majority of unemployed youth as skilled and semi-skilled labour.
He said that many of the youth could be empowered to start their own businesses in the area of commodity value chains of the several important crops that feed the people of Africa.
Prof Danquah made these remarks in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at Sogakope in the Volta Region on the sidelines of the opening of a four-day workshop on Cowpea Value Chain Development in Ghana.
The WACCI’s workshop, on the theme: “Shaping the Future of Cowpea Value Chain Development in Ghana”, was organised under its African Union- European Union funded project.
The workshop registered over 50 participants selected from key institutions including cowpea producers and marketers, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Stanbic Bank, Fidelity Bank, Alliance for Science Ghana, Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness, University of Ghana, Grains and Legumes Development Board (GLDB), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – (Crops Research Institute and Savanna Agricultural Research Institute), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University for Development Studies.
Prof Danquah said Ghana’s population would grow to an estimated 60 million by 2063 when Africa was expected to become an industrialized continent, with the youth constituting about 60 per cent of the population and it would be risky not to empower them.
He said it was in this light that WACCI is leading the conversation of commodity value chains on a number of key crops that hold the key to Ghana’s agricultural transformation if developed.
He said that through the recently inaugurated Kofi Annan Enterprise for Agricultural Innovation, WACCI would lead a consortium of partners, both public and private, to turn the promise into reality by equipping the youth with the knowledge and skills needed for them to birth ideas and turn their ideas into start-ups.
The Founding Director told GNA that cowpea offered opportunities for agribusinesses and it was important that the value chain was properly developed.
He said the focus should be on how to process the cowpea crop into various types of foods and products, adding that “elsewhere, like Nigeria one can find over 10 different diets and products made out of cowpea.
Prof Danquah called on stakeholders to work hard and also engage the government to re-energize the political will for the agricultural transformation underpinned by good science, technology and innovation.