Michigan State University partners with MasterCard Foundation launched a 5-year AgriFood Youth Opportunity Lab 


Michigan State University

The Michigan State University (MSU), in partnership with MasterCard Foundation has launched a five-year AgriFood Youth Opportunity Lab to increase youth employment in Nigeria and Tanzania.

The $13m collaboration, will support 15,000 young people aged 18 to 24 in major bread basket food shed regions surrounding Lagos and Dar es Salaam, to access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
The initiative will encourage youth to participate in the fast-growing horticulture, aquaculture, poultry, cassava and oilseed sectors in Nigeria and Tanzania. The partnership will also assist economically disadvantaged, hard-to-reach out-of-school youth, as they transition into employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agrifood system.
At the launch in Lagos, according to the MSU President, Lou Anna K. Simon, working with MasterCard Foundation and African partners to address one of the most critical problems facing the continent-youth unemployment, reflects how the university pursues MSU’s global vision, adding that it sees great potential to expand youth agrifood employment both on and off the farm.
More than 60 per cent 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 percent of Africa’s population, Tanzania and Nigeria, together represent an important opportunity for intervention in skills acquisition, job creation and employment for youth.
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.
President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, Reeta Roy, described the partnership as an excellent example of using evidence to address youth unemployment, by engaging the private sector to develop business opportunities for young people, adding that the project also addresses some of the challenges youth face in seeking jobs.
Chief Executive Officer of Venture Garden Group, Bunmi Akinyemiju said the initiative would emphasise policy research, data and analytics to develop a cost-effective, scalable model for youth training and facilitation. “Our e-learning and monitoring and evaluation platforms will support the program by providing trainees and other stakeholders with the information needed to succeed.
According to the Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State, the initiative would have long-term impact by building the capacity of local organisations, working directly with the private sector to help youth transition to quality agrifood employment, addressing key policy constraints, and reducing the cost of expanding youth employment. “IITA will bring the lessons from its experience to help Ag Youth Lab tap the dynamism of Africa’s youth. By creating better jobs for themselves, youth can transform Africa’s agrifood systems and build a brighter future for Africa.”
To the Provost of Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology (OYSCATECH), J.G Adewale, “Using a “train the trainers” approach, local colleges and their graduates will train community facilitators to expose youth to new opportunities and pass on skills using an experiential learning approach. We will work together to establish an atmosphere where youth will be able to create jobs and become agents of food sufficiency, as well as, ambassadors of character.”
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