Friday, October 26, 2012

Women and Youth as Catalyst for Agribusiness Development and Growth in West & Central Africa - Songhai Centre, Port Novo, Republic of Benin, 6-9th October 2012

UNIDO, IFAD, UN Women, FAO, UNDP and Oxfam in collaboration with the Songhai Centre, organized a 4 day workshop fair (6th – 9th October 2012) on the theme “Women and Youth as Catalyst for Agribusiness Development and Growth in Western Africa”. The event started with a trade fair showcasing agribusiness produces and processing machineries and culminated in a consultative forum which explored strategies for attracting more women and youth in agribusiness - as a credible job and wealth creation option for the sub region.
Stalls at Trade Fair with agro entrepreneurs displaying their products
Dr Patrick Kormawa UNIDO Country Rep Nigeria and First Lady Cross River State

The key objective of the youth workshop fair was to articulate a strategy for attracting and engaging young women and men in agribusiness. Focusing largely on creating decent employment opportunities for young men and women by making agriculture more productive, efficient, remunerative and competitive, the consultative forum made salient inputs towards the development of evidence based set of policy guidelines that promote women and youth entrepreneurs in agribusiness development

A cross section of young entrepreneurs
The workshop was attended by over 200 participants from 14 African countries. Participants included young entrepreneurs, Songhai Centre graduates, government representatives, agribusiness companies, women entrepreneurs and organisations, farmer organisations, business associations, civil society as well as representatives from national, regional and international development agencies.

Agro entrepreneurs sharing their success stories
During the workshop, stakeholders shared experiences and ideas on strategies for implementation of agribusiness programmes. They identified key factors and successful business models like the Songhai Centre - that can attract young people to become engaged in agribusiness and collaborated to produce a plan of action for a strategic approach to making agriculture an attractive option for more women and youth to engage in. Participants acknowledged the enormous potential young women and men possess to effectively contribute to this critical sector - agreeing that agribusiness offers a realistic opportunity for job and wealth creation for young people who are key drivers of economic growth in emerging markets like the West and Central African sub region. Despite these potentials nonetheless, there was a general consensus that more needs to be done; the sector was still not attractive enough to new entrants, as it continues to be characterised by low investment in technology and research, drudgery, policy lapses and unequal access to information, agribusiness inputs and markets. The need to develop policies to address these challenges was underscored by several participants.

A cross section of agribusiness enthusiasts listening to experience sharing sessions
The consultative forum concluded with participants agreeing on specific issues for organisers to follow up on and action:

1.    Establish a platform where women and young people as well as development partners and other key stakeholders can network and share salient information on available opportunities including - best practices, technology and research, innovations, commodity prices and access to market.

Facilitate the formation of communities of practice amongst women and youth agro entrepreneurs utilising participants in the workshop as the pioneer cohort

2.    Utilising inputs from interactive sessions and experiences shared by entrepreneurs, the forum urged organisers to develop a comprehensive policy guidelines for promoting the profitable engagement of women and young people in agribusiness in the West and Central African Region. The policy guideline will serve as a useful tool for programme development, advocacy and fund mobilisation by governments and development partners.

3.    Finalise and disseminate a Strategic Action Plan based on interactive sessions and experiences shared by agro entrepreneurs during workshop. The plan will aim at promoting agriculture as a lucrative business for young men and women in West and Central Africa.

It was agreed that the plan should articulate critical elements discussed in meeting such as effective coordination, capacity building for young agro entrepreneurs to meet required quality standards for markets, resource mobilisation strategy to fund plan, a media and advocacy strategy to rebrand and provide visibility to the opportunities in agribusiness and a Monitoring and Evaluation regime to guide implementation of action plan.

4.    Organise an Annual Award Event aimed at recognising successful agro entrepreneurs as role models in the West and Central African region.

The Minister of Youth Development(Nigeria) Hon Inuwa Abdul-Kadir, listening to young agroentreprenuers
5.    The developmental Institutions present resolved to work with the agro entrepreneurs and Government agencies in addressing the specific challenges affecting women and youth, particularly those relating to unequal access to finance and other agribusiness inputs.

As the phrase ‘business unusual’ was adopted as the guiding ethos for the workshop fair, the organisers were urged by the participants to ensure that resolutions reached by the forum be followed through dutifully. On their part, participants, especially the women and young entrepreneurs resolved to increase the momentum generated from the workshop by spreading the information on the several opportunities they have identified in the sector to their peers in their respective communities and expressed willingness to form themselves into a community of practice where they can continue to share information and have a strong platform for influencing policies that affect them.

For more details please contact:
Maada Gombu   +2347068886330           

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