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OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)

“O

ne of the biggest challenges at the global level

is our youth — even in advanced economies.

But it’s crucial when you look at it from the perspective

of the Least Developed Countries. Unless we’re decisive

about it, the so-called dividends of youth will turn out to

be a curse instead.

Themajority of people in low income countries live in

ruralareas. Andatleasthalfofthem, ifnotmore, areyoung

people. This has implications for economic migration. I

don’t believe that migration can or should be stopped,

but if we want to make it a more positive experience for

all — and prevent people from being forced to migrate —

we have to create hope and potential for young people.

At the moment, I don’t feel like the agricultural sec-

tor is attractive enough to draw young people in. But I’m

convinced that by investing in technologies — improv-

ing seed yields and providing better access to weather,

market and financial information, for example —we can

make agriculture much more attractive. I would like to

see us reach the situation where young people, either

alone or in small groups, become as excited about start-

ing up an agriculture-related company as they are by the

lure of the city.

Challenges

Thisispartoftheanswer to theyouthunemploymentchal-

lenge, and also part of the answer to the food security

question. The challenge for us is getting to this position.

Most members of the rural youth community will tell you

that the first impediment is access to finance. I’m deter-

mined that themoney IFAD lends to itsmembers isgeared

toward rural youth. The private sector has an important

part to play, too; governments are not able to create all

the jobs we need or provide all the answers.

When it comes to providing better access to technol-

ogy, I’m not advocating the most sophisticated forms.

But we should remember that no young person seems

satisfied with less than a smart phone these days,

whether they’re in Europe or Africa. We need to invest in

“When I see rural youth today — young boys

and young girls — I’m reminded of myself

all those years ago. I feel like there’s some

unfinished business. So that’s where my drive

comes from.”

Gilbert F Houngbo

OPEC bulletin 11/17

Konkomba children on a tractor in a village in Togo.

* Gilbert F Houngbo

was recently appointed the sixth President of IFAD. He

previously served as Deputy Director-General of the International Labour

Organization (ILO) and was Prime Minister of the Republic of Togo from

2008–12. Houngbo has also held leadership positions at the United Nations

Development Programme (UNDP).

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