MasterCard to Empower African Youths with $13m Investment

Jacob Adewale, Provost, Oyo State College of Agriculture & Technology, Julie Howard, Senior Adviser to the Associate Provost and Dean of International Studies and Programmes, Michigan State University, Alemayehu Konde Koira, Senior Program Manager, Youth Livelihoods, The MaterCard Foundation, Kenton Dashiell, Deputy DG, Partnership Delivery, IITA, and Adesoji Adelaja, Professor in land Policy, Dept of Agric, Food & Resource Economics, MSU at a press conference after launch of Ag Youth Lab in Lagos South West Nigeria.

MASTERCARD Incorporated through its Foundation has unveiled how it intends to empower 15,000 youths from Nigeria and Tanzania with a $13 million investment spanning a five years.
In the youth empowerment initiative, named AgriFood Youth Opportunity Lab, the MasterCard Foundation will be collaborating between the Michigan State University to help 15,000 young people access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the fast-growing horticulture, aquaculture, poultry, cassava and oilseed sectors in Tanzania and Nigeria.
The project which was launched in the commercial city of Lagos, South West, Nigeria this week had in attendance captains of industries, financial experts, agric-economies, agriculture experts from international organisation, members of the academia as well as senior government officials from the state and federal level
According to the Senior Program Manager, Youth Livelihoods, The MaterCard Foundation, Alemayehu Konde Koira, the AgriFood Youth Opportunity Lab, will focus on youth ages 18 to 24 in major food shed regions surrounding Lagos and Dar es Salaam.
He said that the Ag Youth Lab will assist economically disadvantaged, hard-to-reach and out-of-school youth transition into employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agrifood system.
He told journalist at a press conference after the launch of the programme that the involvement of government in the project was base on the fact that government formulates policies that drive the sector while the academia design curriculum that makes such project a success stressing that funding is mostly from the private sector, and that is what the MasterCard Foundation is doing.
He assured that the 15,000 beneficiaries, though small in numbers compared to the large numbers of employed youths, the ripple effect of the investment into the life of the 15,000 youths will be enormous
President of MSU, Lou Anna K. Simon, said that “Working with The MasterCard Foundation and African partners to address one of the most critical problems facing the continent-youth unemployment-reflects how we pursue MSU’s global vision.”
He added, “We see great potential to expand youth agrifood employment both on and off the farm.”
Statistics revealed that more than 60 % of Africa’s young people are jobless or underemployed, and formal job creation efforts in Africa’s growing economies have been insufficient, according to African Economic Outlook. Comprising 20 % of Africa’s population, Tanzania and Nigeria together represent an important opportunity for intervention in skills acquisition, job creation and employment for youth.
Senior Adviser to the Associate Provost and Dean of International Studies and Programmes, at MSU, Julie Howard said that the program will have a special focus on gender equity, aiming for equal representation of young men and women across its programs and addressing policy, training, mentoring and other constraints that affect the ability of young women to start enterprises or obtain employment.
The Ag Youth Lab will respond directly to opportunities and constraints identified in the 2016 MSU and The MasterCard Foundation¬ Agrifood Youth Employment and Engagement Study (AgYees).
The report observed that there is the need to actively engage the private sector in the design, development and implementation of youth employment programs; improve training curricula to ensure its relevance to the modern agrifood sector and apply information and communication technologies (ICT) and other advanced technologies to solve agrifood system problems; and
It also highlighted the need to adapt youth programs to meet the expanding consumer demand for fresh fruits, vegetables; high-quality proteins, semi-processed and ready-to eat meals.
Commenting on the partnership, the President and Chief Executive Officer of The MasterCard Foundation, Reeta Roy said the “this partnership with Michigan State University is an excellent example of using evidence to address youth unemployment.”
He added that by engaging the private sector to develop business opportunities for young people the project also addresses some of the challenges youth face in seeking work.
By Isaiah Erhiawarien

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