Conference Background

yff2copyIn Africa, policy interest in the ‘young people – agriculture nexus’ focuses almost exclusively on the challenge of keeping young people in rural areas and engaged in farming. This approach ignores important drivers, trends and developments that are impacting on both young people’s aspirations and the structure of the agrifood sector.

In the coming years the agrifood sector in Africa will undergo significant transformation that will result in both challenges and opportunities for young people, depending on who and where they are. Perhaps most importantly, the agrifood sector will become an increasingly important source of formal employment for young people, with a significant expansion of employment opportunities in food marketing, processing, retail, catering, research, input sales etc. These jobs will generally require higher levels of education and different skills, and many will be located in or near urban areas.

It is this context that the conference will critically examine, from both research and policy perspectives:

  • Dominant and alternative framings and narratives, and recent empirical data, relating to how young people engage with the agrifood sector in Africa (as producers, entrepreneurs, employees, consumers and citizens)
  • The dynamics of change in different components of the agri-food sector and the implications of these dynamics for young people
  • The implications for young people of alternative policy approaches to the development of the agri-food sector

Throughout, the need to consider different categories of young people and importance of different situations and places will be emphasised. Conflict will be one of the ‘situations’ that will be highlighted.

Through this conference we hope to help shift the debate away from questions such as “How can farming be made more attractive to young people?” toward a broader analysis of the opportunities and challenges for different categories young people in different situations associated with on-going and likely future changes within the broader agri-food system. Such an analysis should take account of changes not only in food production, but also in processing and transformation, marketing, retail, governance and so on.

Background facts

  • The UN defines youth as those between the ages of 15 to 24 years. This age group represent almost one fifth (18 percent) of the global population (1.2 billion people).
  • 87 percent of youth live in developing countries – Africa has the highest population of people under 25 (200 million are aged between 15-24)
  • Youth face challenges brought about by limited access to resources, healthcare, education, training, employment and economic opportunities.
  • Many youth remain marginalized, disconnected or excluded from the opportunities that globalization offers.
  • Globally, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. In Africa, 40 percent of the total unemployed in Africa – 70 percent of these live in rural areas. Those who are employed have insecure work arrangements, characterized by low productivity and meagre earnings.
  • Among the youth, females and the rural face particularly stronger challenges especially because of early motherhood and lack of educational and job opportunities.


Dr James Sumberg
Research Fellow
Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Brighton, UK

Dr Nana Akua Anyidoho
Research Fellow
University of Ghana, P. O. Box LG 74
Legon, Ghana

About the organisers

The conference will be co-hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) based at the Institute of Development Studies, UK and the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), based at the University of Ghana.

FAC is a multidisciplinary and independent learning alliance of academic researchers and practitioners involved in African agriculture. Based at the Institute of Development Studies ( it aims to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth. With funding from the UK’s Department for International Development the consortium is active in twelve countries across East, South and West Africa.

ISSER is a semi-autonomous research institution within the Faculty of Social Studies at the University of Ghana. ISSER is committed to carrying out research and training that is geared towards promoting the socio-economic development of Ghana in particular and Africa in general. The Institute strives to maintain its reputation for solid social science research, paying close attention to exploratory, explanatory and evaluative aspects of the dynamics of development.