P.M. Dontsop Nguezet, IITA, Bukavu C. Okafor, IITA, Bukavu M.O. Yomeni, IITA, Bukavu S. Amato Masirika, IITA, Bukavu S. Mapatano, Diobass R. Ramazani, PAIDEK N. Mulinganya, IKYA
Youth unemployment is a critical challenge in DR Congo where over 70% of young graduates are jobless. In the Eastern part of the country, the situation was exacerbated by decades of civil conflicts which have forced many youths to migrate from rural areas to the cities in search of good paid jobs. The region is endowed with huge agricultural potential, placing the sector in the best position to provide jobs and incomes for the youth.
Despite the global acknowledgement of the huge potential of the agricultural sector to provide jobs and incomes to young people in sub-Saharan Africa, youth engagement in agribusiness is still very limited. Understanding their perceptions and the factors that condition their engagement in agribusiness is indeed a critical step toward reducing unemployment among youths in Eastern DR Congo and particularly in South-Kivu province. This study aims to understand youth perception and factors that condition their engagement in agribusiness in Eastern DR Congo.
We randomly selected 375 youths (1535 years) from 75 youth associations in South-Kivu province (Eastern DR Congo), precisely in Bukavu town and 25 km around. We analyzed perceptions and identified major drivers of youth engagement in different segments of the agricultural value chain.
A large portion (82%) of youth interviewed in South-Kivu perceive agriculture as a sector that can provide jobs and incomes for majority of unemployed youth in their area. This is because agriculture requires abundant labor in all segments of the value chain and does not require a high qualification. In addition, agribusiness offers good income generation opportunities for the youth given the high demand of agro-food commodities in the area where more than 80% of the food consumed is imported from neighboring countries (see figure ). The positive perception observed is certainly explained by the fact that all the respondents are members of associations that are spaces for development thinking with special emphasis on the role of agriculture.
Analysis shows that youth are interested in all the segments of the value chain including production (44%) and specifically on processing and marketing (56%). Youth would engage differently in the various segments of the agricultural value chain. Majority of them (56%) preferred to engage in processing and commercialization segments for quicker and less risky income generation whereas 44% would like to engage in production.
Their engagement in agribusiness as well as in different segments is driven by their gender status. It was observed that young boys were more likely to be engaged than young girls. Their ability to easily have access to land increases their tendency to open farms and engage into agriculture. Large land sizes make farming much more economically viable for the farmers by enabling them to reap economies of scale and use better and cost-effective technologies. Land serves more than just a productive asset and is often used as a preferred collateral in the credit market. The level of the youths’ experience in associations, which facilitate access to productive resources (e.g., land and finance), and to inputs and output market, experience in entrepreneurship, value of assets owned including the one owned by their family. On the contrary, asset value and number of years in off farm entrepreneurship business discourage their engagement in the different segments of the agricultural value chain.
Despite their enthusiasm, several challenges prevent them from engaging in those agribusiness activities. Among these constraints is the very weak credit culture among youths as only 34% have ever asked for credit. However, 95% of people who asked for credit received it but the amounts received were small ($1,000 on average), at a high interest rate (6.8%) and short term for reimbursement (less than a year). However, the rate of reimbursement was high among credit beneficiaries (more than 95%), an indication that youths can pay back their loans. Other challenges identified were low level of skills in business ventures, over taxation by government agencies, limited support from government and other development organizations, poor quality of physical and communication infrastructures as well as limited access to land.
Youth enthusiasm and engagement in agricultural value chains can be boosted by investing more in modernizing agriculture and reducing administrative and financial constraints to make it more profitable and more attractive to the youth. Efforts should be directed to enhancing youth skills in agribusiness while ensuring ease of access to land and other productive resources through youth-friendly systems with consideration to gender. Moreover, the development of effective government entrepreneurship programs aimed at supporting young people’s enterprise could have a positive impact in engaging youth in agribusiness.