Given the rising youth populations in sub-Saharan Africa and the state of un- and under-employment in the region, the agriculture sector—and particularly on-farm production—offers the greatest potential for alleviating unemployment and underemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although African countries are experiencing higher rates of employment growth in non-farm sectors, agriculture will continue to be the largest source of employment on the continent due to base employment figures. Moreover, on-farm productivity is the key to harnessing growth in off-farm employment. The research also suggests that because growth in Africa is unlikely to keep up with the pace of new labor market entrants, self-employment in the informal sector will likely present the greatest opportunity for generating youth employment in the near term, particularly in low-income countries. To that end, programs attempting to address youth unemployment in low-income economies should focus on the structural constraints to job creation, namely on-farm productivity as well as self-employment in the informal sector.

Africa’s Evolving Employment Trends: Implications for Economic Transformation

Increases in farm-level productivity are key to job creation and economic transformation in Africa. This research examines nationally representative data from nine African countries, showing three key findings: a general decline in farming’s share of employment over the past decade; a strong relationship between lagged farm productivity growth and the speed at which the share of the labor force in farming declines; and the moderate potential for agro-processing or other stages of the food system to absorb youth into gainful employment in the coming years. While employment in agro-processing is growing rapidly in percentage terms, its share of overall employment is quite low and will not generate nearly as many new jobs as on-farm production.

Agrifood Youth Employment and Engagement Study

This study examines the potential of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agrifood systems to provide new jobs for unemployed, underemployed and disadvantaged youth. First, it analyzes economic mega-trends for Rwanda, Tanzania and Nigeria and projects how economic changes will affect future job prospects for rural and urban African youth. The major findings are that the off-farm agri-food system is growing very rapidly in percentage terms, and that labor is moving sharply out of farming as those countries’ economies transform. However, off-farm activities will not match production activities in the absolute level of new job creation for at least 10 years. As such, on-farm production will remain extremely important for livelihoods and economic growth. Secondly, the study examines the economic and policy environment affecting youth engagement with the agri-food system, assesses the skills gaps between labor supply and market demand, and distills best practices and lessons learned related to youth economic programming, presenting a set of recommendations for youth-related programming in Rwanda, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Agri-Food Systems and Youth Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa

This report summarizes the evidence and discussion presented at a May 2016 USAID Feed the Future Youth & Employment Roundtable Symposium, with a focus on the relationship between youth livelihoods and the development of food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Population trends, labor trends, opportunities and constraints to youth entrepreneurship, and skills required by the agri-food system are discussed. Recommendations focus on investments in agricultural productivity growth as a means to generate the multiplier effects that expand off-farm jobs, as well as investments in education and skills development.

Failing Young People? Addressing the Supply-Side Bias and Individualisation in Youth Employment Programming

This report critiques some of the predominant models for getting young people into work, namely “the supply-side bias built into the majority of approaches,” and aims to advance models that address demand-side and structural constraints. The report also argues against currently adopted models that are narrowly economic and individualistic in their approach, acknowledging that young people’s decisions and trajectories regarding work are shaped by social values, positions and expectations, as well as by their social relationships and immediate political contexts. Consequently, the report argues that policies need to better reflect the real constraints, opportunities and forces that shape young people’s engagement with work.

The Evidence is in: How Should Youth Employment Programs in Low-Income Countries be Designed?

This paper outlines the economic development challenges that constrain youth’s transition into employment, and it parses the evidence on which programs and policies appear to speed that transition. It outlines the typology of employment challenges in three categories: transforming economies, non-transforming economies, and “stalled transforming” economies. It also summarizes the lessons from impact evaluations that discuss which interventions lead to job creation in both wage-based employment and self-employment. The paper concludes by calling for a long-term economic transformation agenda for low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Agriculture as a Sector of Opportunity for Young People in Africa

This policy paper explores the potential for job creation in the agriculture sector to harness the youth dividend in Sub-Saharan Africa. It explores the characteristics of youth engagement in agriculture, presents the three major constraints to youth agriculture employment — acquisition of capital, land, and skills — and offers an array of solutions in each of these three areas.

Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa

Increased productivity in the agriculture sector is key to addressing youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa and can lead to higher earnings as well as to more stable, less vulnerable livelihoods. This extensive policy report examines obstacles faced by households and firms in meeting the youth employment challenge. It focuses on agriculture productivity, non-farm household enterprises, and wage-based employment. The report identifies specific areas in which government intervention can reduce obstacles to productivity for agriculture, including increasing access to finance, land, and extension services.

Employment in Agriculture: Jobs for Africa’s Youth

As part of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2012 Global Food Policy Report, this chapter presents the policy challenges associated with the agriculture sector as a source of meaningful jobs for the growing number of young people in Africa. It describes four employment options for youth: (1) Youth remaining on family holdings, (2) Youth seeking off-farm opportunities, (3) Youth establishing new holdings, and (4) Youth taking on formal or informal on- or off-farm wage work. The paper also suggests how policymakers can address critical constraints in access to financial services, land, education, and modern skills within those four employment pathways.

Rural Youth Employment

This discussion paper, an input to discussions on Rural Youth Employment in the G20 Development Working Group, presents a broad spectrum of action areas for consideration by G20 countries to promote the level and quality of jobs in rural areas in developing countries. It discusses the rationale for focusing on rural youth employment, as well as opportunities for youth in farming, across food systems, and in non-food-related activities. It then explores solutions for increasing rural youth employment, highlighting the need for youth participation in policy dialogue and program design. The paper also details effective “demand-side” and “supply-side” interventions.