Agriculture is the largest source of employment in East Africa, and contributes the largest share of GDP for all East African economies. However, it is also one of the most underperforming and under-exploited sectors. Women and youth are often excluded from most agricultural value chains because of many entry barriers such as limited access to land, lack of capital and poor knowledge of available opportunities.
Large pools of youth could obtain gainful employment were they to be involved in higher level value chain activities. Catalyzing the emergence of youth-led small businesses and micro-enterprises and associated mentoring of a new breed of tech savvy entrepreneurs, to understand and respond to market demands and available opportunities, would greatly improve performance of these value chains and at the same time create the much needed employment.
- Proposed Solution
The NextGen Agripreneur boot camp and apprenticeship program will connect leading agricultural businesses with motivated youth keen to invest their time and resources in building agricultural businesses. The apprenticeship will build the skills of participants through immersion and practice, much in the same way that a vocational institution would. By the end of the apprenticeship, it is expected that the participants would be equipped with the necessary skills to develop and operate viable businesses.
The program will promote a symbiotic relationship where businesses get access to a pool of motivated potential workforce or future service providers while the youth learn invaluable technical skills useful for employment or running an agricultural business. An incubating entity will link the selected youth to the best matched businesses for apprenticeship while also equipping them with leadership and business skills as a pathway to success.
Participants are invited to a one-month boot camp where a number of businesses share their experiences operating in the sector. This is an intensive immersion activity where the youth undertake practical lessons, learn the A – Z about the enterprise and are exposed to scenarios, experiences and challenges that have been experienced by the businesses. Through a case - study role playing format, they are invited to solve actual challenges that a business has actually faced. At the end of the boot camp, participants complete an assessment to evaluate their understanding of the businesses, their decision making process and ability to identify opportunities that exist in the highlighted business areas with a view of developing ‘bankable’ business ideas.
Evaluation based on specific criteria is then used to select a subset of participants who are invited for apprenticeship at participating businesses. The incubating facility then works with the apprentices to develop the business idea further and provides initial seed funding to set up the business. It also provides continuous administrative support as well as mentoring and training opportunities in business leadership and management to ensure that the start-up venture succeeds. The support is slowly weaned off and completely withdrawn as the business stabilizes. In this way, a network of youth-led businesses employing many other youth would emerge, while also ensuring a large pool of technically competent youth is available for employment by existing businesses.
In its inception, it is anticipated that a pilot program will be set up in one of the three East African countries (Kenya, Uganda or Rwanda) given their large, vibrant and business-motivated youth populations. In the selected country, a total of 4 cohorts will be selected, and 100 apprenticeship positions made available per year. From these, 15 fundable business ideas will be selected for seed funding. Each apprentice is expected to build a business with high impact for youth involvement. The pilot phase is expected to last 3 years (two rounds of selection), at which point a review will be undertaken to assess the impact of the program on business development and employment creation and to determine how the model can be scaled up and out.
- Outcomes and impact
It is envisaged that a minimum of 200 youth will participate in the boot camp every year. Of these, 100 will be trained on technical skills in various agricultural value chains. This will tremendously improve the pool of employable youth who are job-ready. The 15 businesses that will be supported each year will be those that have potential for employing between 10 to 30 youth. The program thus has the potential to directly impact between 250 to 600 youth every year once the funded businesses become operational. The spill-over effects will ensure a larger number of households benefit from the program. In addition to creating employment for the youth, the program will also reduce the scarcity of skilled labor for the agricultural sector and spark interest of youth in agricultural value chains.