World Youth Skills Day Revisited

The challenges facing young people worldwide regarding employment and entrepreneurship are especially severe – traditionally even more so in Africa. The number of youth that are Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET) has been climbing steadily since 2017. Globally, one in five young people is NEET. Three out of four young NEETs are women.

The Future Africa Leader Fellowship Programme (FAR-LeaF) is focused on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills to address the complex, interlinked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.

As part of the FAR-LeaF cohort of 25 Research Fellows, one researcher targets women and youth to impart skills and access to agricultural systems. Dr Ronald Tombe is a lecturer at Kisii University in Kenya. His research promises relief in youth and female employment and entrepreneurship in agriculture. His research project is focused on inclusive agricultural transformation through technology and innovations. Supporting the development of digital systems for enhancing productivity, knowledge preservation and incomes of indigenous communities.

His objective is clear: “In Kenya and South Africa, agricultural production accounts for most informal employment. People most affected by high unemployment and vulnerable to inadequate access to essential services are women and the youth."

Despite possessing internet-enabled digital devices, the information and communication technologies that can bridge the gaps to inclusiveness are severely underutilized. According to Dr Tombe, these marginalised groups are excluded, also from essential online services like farming seminars, education and digital services for entrepreneurial activities presented by the government and the private sector.

Sectors previously seen as a source of start-up opportunities for the young seem to be hit the hardest. The Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath have decimated the wholesale and retail trade, real estate and the accommodation and food services industries.

Dr Tombe is passionate about creating contextualised, easy-to-use, enriching software and innovative digital solutions for youthful and female business start-ups contextualised in Africa for easy transacting.

“There is a lack of integration in the agricultural chain. The chain currently supports well-experienced commercial producers but leaves small room for small-scale farmers – mostly women and youths – leaving them lacking in skills and access to markets and capital. This makes it difficult for these emerging farmers to have meaningful participation in the agricultural value chain.”

Dr Tombe’s project aims to redress this imbalance in agriculture – the sector with the highest potential for poverty reduction through job opportunities, food sufficiency and wealth creation – ensuring the inclusion and participation of young and female farmers in the agricultural value chain. “Effective digital solutions will enable emerging farmers in developing countries to deal with challenges regarding timely farming advice on practices, quick access to market information on farm produce and access to capital.”

Article submitted by Ronald Tombe


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.