The President of the African Development Bank Dr Akinwumi Adesina has directed that IYA should be included as part of beneficiaries of the bank’s new financing initiative-BOOST Africa.Dr Adesina stated this after receiving a progress report on the activities of IYA from a team of IYA members who visited the headquarters of AfDB in Abidjan earlier this month.
BOOST Africa is a blended finance initiative which supports early stage and start-up SMEs in Africa with special focus on youth and women. This initiative is expected to commence in 2017 in partnership with the European Investment Bank.
Speaking further, Dr Adesina said IYA’s inclusion in the finance initiative was as a result of its tireless effort in ensuring that their business plans for the kickoff of individual business enterprises was up and running.
He stressed that the bank will support the youth in ‘unusual’ ways as they have also decided to take agriculture as ‘business unusual’ to generate wealth and create jobs for the teeming population of unemployed youth in Africa and also ensure that Africa feed itself again.
His words “My own vision is that we would support you through the following instrument. We just launched last week, what is called the BOOST investment program with the European Investment Bank. The total amount we are investing is 263 million euros. And it is exactly about young people investing through venture capital funds, business incubator facilities, accelerator programmes to turn the business of young people and to bring it alive. We are going to link you immediately to that BOOST investment because I learnt you are working on your business plans so that the first step of investment will be in you” he stated.
He added that the time has come for Africa to invest in the young people who have the drive, passion, commitment and vision that are not deterred by mistakes or obstacles.
“As a bank if we want to invest in things, we say let us know what your internal rate of return is, your cost benefit ratio and payback period but I can tell you, the greatest thing that you should be investing in is not just the general rate of return. Invest in those that have passion, vision because nothing can pull that down and that is what I see in people seated here today and I saw that in 2014 when I said I was seeing a different vision and continent with youthful population that has decided that they can do the greatest work to unclock Africa’s greatest potential which is agriculture. I didn’t know I was going to be the president of AFDB” he added. He however commended IITA and most especially the DG of IITA Dr Sanginga for institutionalizing the Youth in Agribusiness Program and appointing a young person to lead the unit.
He said: “We want an Africa where our young people are the ones making us proud. I was a scientist in IITA and in IITA we were very rigid. It was science all round but I think you (Dr Sanginga) were sending a message which I think is that science doesn’t stop in the labs and research doesn’t stop in the research stations. Afterall if agriculture which is the foundation of why CGIAR was established dies because young people are not there and just old people then all the research that is being done will be totally useless. You had a vision and that is what I think you feel the future should be.”
The Executive Director of the Bank, Dr Bright Okogu while speaking enjoined the youth to persevere and continue with the hard work as the future of African agriculture lies in their hands. “I am optimistic that you will join the Forbes list of the richest people in Africa. I have seen what you have done and know what you can do so keep the fire burning and the sky is your starting point” he said.
The representative of the Minister of Youth in Cote d’ ivoire, M. Kouadio Kouame Jean Louis said the agricultural sector in the country is dominated by old people who are gradually becoming too aged to actively take the sector as a business. He said the IYA model is an eye opener to how the youth in the country can be productively engage and embrace agriculture as a business. He said with this, the country’s GDP will increase as the agriculture sector is a pillar in the country’s economy. he said the country is ready to take part in the initiative.
The Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga said the pains of seeing young people jobless after years of learning in higher institutions pushed him towards establishing the youth Agripreneurs movement. Giving a scenario of the IITA gate on the first day of every month, Dr Sanginga stressed that graduate of different discipline queue in hundreds to seek for casual jobs at the institution.
The Agripreneurs also took turn to share their personal testimonies and impact of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs model. The youth were supported and accompanied to the Bank by Mr Kwame, Drs Alfred Dixon, Eric Koper, Chrys Akem, Mrs Charlotte Sanginga and Mrs Toyin Oke.