Professor Eric Danquah, Founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana (UG) and the 2018 Laureate, Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA) has reiterated that agribusiness is a game changer to Ghana’s youth unemployment issues. Professor Danquah noted that with the burgeoning youth populations and rising youth unemployment rates in Africa, the contribution by agriculture to poverty reduction will only be sustained by the inclusion of youth in the sector.
He said that some challenges facing the agriculture sector in Africa are low technical and entrepreneurial skills, limited opportunities, and inadequate awareness of agriculture by youth. He intimated that with agriculture being the economic base for many African countries, it is a sector that can absorb the majority of unemployed youth as skilled and semi-skilled labor. He added that many of the youth could be empowered to start their own businesses in the area of the commodity value chains of the several important crops that feed the people of Africa. Prof. Danquah made these remarks in an interview on the sidelines of the opening of a four-day workshop on Cowpea Value Chain Development in Ghana.
WACCI’s workshop, on the theme: “Shaping the Future of Cowpea Value Chain Development in Ghana”, was organised under its African Union- European Union funded project. The workshop registered over 54 actors selected from key institutions including cowpea producers and marketers, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Stanbic Bank, Fidelity Bank, Alliance for Science Ghana, Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness, University of Ghana, Grains and Legumes Development Board (GLDB), and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Crops Research Institute and Savanna Agricultural Research Institute), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Development Studies.
Prof. Danquah also noted that it was estimated Ghana’s population will grow to an estimated 64 million by 2063 when Africa is expected to become an industrialized continent, with the youth constituting about 60% of the population and it would be risky not to empower them. He said it was in this light that that WACCI is leading conversations of commodity value chains in a number of key crops that hold the key to Ghana’s agricultural transformation if developed. He said that through the recently inaugurated Kofi Annan Enterprise for Agricultural Innovation, WACCI will lead a consortium of partners, both public and private, to turn the promise into reality by equipping the youth with the knowledge and skills needed for them to birth ideas and turn their ideas into start-ups.
The Founding Director of WACCI told this reporter that cowpea offered opportunities for agribusinesses and it was important that the value chain was properly developed. He said the focus should be on how to process the cowpea crop into various types of foods and foods products, adding that “elsewhere, like Nigeria one can find over 10 different diets and products made out of cowpea. Prof. Danquah called on all stakeholders to work hard and also engage the government to re-energize political will for the agricultural transformation underpinned by good science, technology and innovation.
By: Reuben Quainoo