AGRA’s Board Chair H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn Addresses ‘Connection to Territories: Youth and Land Rights’ at COP28 Food Systems Pavilion Session

6th December 2023

In a compelling address at the COP28 Food Systems Pavilion Session, AGRA’s Board Chair, H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, emphasized the critical link between youth, land rights, and territories in Africa. The dialogue shed light on the challenges faced by the continent’s youth in accessing land, securing decent employment, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.

Dessalegn began by highlighting Africa’s youthful demographic, with over 60% of the population under the age of 25. He underscored the potential of this demographic to shape Africa’s future while pointing out the numerous challenges hindering their progress, including limited access to land, formal employment, and sustainable agricultural practices.

Addressing the employment landscape, Dessalegn noted that while 12 million youth enter the job market annually, only 25% secure formal employment, leaving a substantial portion either unemployed or underemployed. He stressed the need to harness the potential of the youth to address major challenges facing the continent.

The AGRA Board Chair highlighted the complex obstacles faced by African youth in securing land rights and meaningful employment. He pointed out that inequitable land tenure practices disproportionately favor elders, men, and elites, marginalizing the youth, especially young women. Financial constraints, limited access to credit, and legal protection further impede youth aspirations to acquire or lease land.

Dessalegn emphasized AGRA’s commitment to sustainable growth in Africa’s food systems. He highlighted the importance of transforming agriculture and food systems inclusively to generate meaningful job opportunities for the continent’s youth. Currently, 54% of Africa’s workforce relies on agriculture, with the food economy accounting for 66% of total employment.

AGRA’s 2023-2027 strategy includes a focus on inclusivity, with the Generation Africa Programme aiming to support 10 million agri-preneurs in the next five years. The program, developed in partnership with Bayer, has already grown to a community of over 10,000 agri-preneurs. Dessalegn shared a success story from Tanzania, where a participant saw profits increase from USD 25,000 to 100,000 monthly, creating job opportunities for over 30 people.

Dessalegn also announced a new partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, aiming to create up to 1.5 million dignified work opportunities within the agricultural sector across seven African countries. The ambitious goal is to reach 10 million unemployed youth, with a focus on gender inclusivity.

In addressing the issue of youth land rights, Dessalegn emphasized the need for policy reforms. AGRA will work with the African Union Commission and Regional Economic Communities to advocate for progressive and inclusive frameworks. The goal is to create an enabling regulatory environment that supports entrepreneurship, facilitates land registration, and safeguards the rights of young farmers.

Dessalegn stressed the imperative to accelerate access to youth land rights, create decent jobs, foster entrepreneurship, and establish sustainable production systems in Africa. He framed these efforts as investments in an entire generation, catalysts for economic growth, and a testament to the commitment to building a prosperous Africa for all.