The Afro-Arab Youth Council (AAYC) in partnership with the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) organized a youth dialogue under the theme, “Enhancing food security through innovations and planetary health: the role of youth.”
Officiated by Major General Kahinda Otafiire Uganda’s Minister of Internal Affairs on behalf of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Uganda, the dialogue brought together youth from Africa and the Arab World, and provided a platform for young people to interact with policy makers to shape the future of the Afro-Arab partnership. Over 300 delegates representing youth leaders, policy makers, universities, secondary schools and non-governmental organizations from Bharain, Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Gabon, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and United Arab Emirates.
There was consensus that Africa and the Arab World are each endowed with resources not present in the other, offering a win-win partnership. Africa has vast arable land and climate which favors food production while the Arab World has vast oil resources and has advanced in science, technology and innovation. These resources could be exchanged through training, science and technology and trade cooperation and engagement of young people to be part is very critical. The youth are the future leaders who will be driving the partnership and thus must be engaged in developing its strategic focus and participate in the partnership’s activities.
However, it emerged from the dialogue that more needs to be done at policy level, institutions of learning and at personal level for youth if the potential benefits of the Afro-Arab partnership are to be reaped. The current agricultural and food system policies do not favor the youth participation in Agriculture and the youth policies have narrow agenda for skilling and funding the youths yet the youths are Africa’s most valuable and increasing vulnerable asset” said Dr. Fred Muhumuza, a senior policy researcher in Uganda. He further added that Uganda should improve its agricultural products through value addition and employ technologies that can enable it to produce high quality products that can be exported to other parts of the world.
To effectively reap the benefits of the partnership, Major General Kahinda Otafiire emphasized that “Africa and the Arab World should identify sectors of strategic advantage, harness the natural resources, add value through science, technology and innovation and trade among each other. The policy makers will facilitate removal of trade barriers and other limitations, he added.
Prof. Adipala, Ekwamu, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM committed to the partnership that African Universities through the RUFORUM Network are more than willing to provide technical expertise through research and training and business incubation.
For all these to succeed, H.E. Abdul Haddi Elhwegi, President of the Afro-Arab Youth Council emphasized that the young people and policy makers should create and operate in a peaceful environment. Without peace, no development can take place. Even the little economic gains we shall make are reduced to zero when there is instability, just like we see in Libya. We need to silence the guns, he said.
For effective participation in agriculture and food system, the mindset change for young people needs to be changed. The way parents, training institutions and policy makers present the agriculture and food sector needs to change to a positive one. Young men and women using advanced technologies such as drones for spraying; irrigation machines should be used to market agriculture and food systems to attract young people to the profession and business of agriculture and food system. Success stories demonstrating profitability of the sector, creation of jobs should be widely publicized coupled with government support in investing and skilling young people to participate in agriculture. The narrative should shift from the old stories of parents and guardians telling their children to study so that they do not become farmers, a job associated with disadvantaged and illiterate people. Moreover, the young people need to be engaged in managing the environment to keep the land sustainably productive especially in the threats of climate change. Therefore, the challenges facing African food systems need to be addressed collectively with global partners who have the knowledge, skills and intrinsic interest in improving agriculture. New and innovative food systems policies will naturally present synergies and trade-offs that the youth of today need to adapt to since adaptation is not feasible at all times.