Making agriculture profitable and “cool” for youth in Africa

How can we lift millions of young people out of poverty and mitigate migration to Europe? There is no simple answer, but clearly, we must first “make agriculture profitable and cool for young people in Africa,” according to Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (ADB) and winner of the World Food Prize. At SARA 2017, we met a young, 2SCALE-supported Ivorian with a bright future in agribusiness, and who is making a business turnover of several millions, just in the vegetable business. Here is his story.

My name is Coulibaly Bakary Sidiki, and I am a reseller of phytosanitary products and seeds in the region of ​​Bagué. I came to this [agriculture] market to find a job that my Higher Technician Certificate in Accounting did not allow me to have. There was no way out for me in town, so I went back to the village to work with my older brother, and we started this activity, building relationships with the various collaborators who were our bosses, that is to say, the big dealers. From 2014 until today, I can say that our company, “COULIBALY Et FRERES,” is growing more and more.

Among the success factors, there may be luck, but there is also IFDC’s 2SCALE project, which brought me many experiences. The training aided me in learning more about the management of my business, especially with having a focus on employing women and understanding vegetables.

I learned the difference and the importance of developing long-term business relations with groups and not with isolated and individual farmers. Farmer’s organizations can come and buy products to try them, and if there are problems, they tell us, and we can go in the field to see what happens. But with isolated individuals, it’s a bit difficult. Vegetable demand is growing fast, and it is a lucrative business, but it requires courage, business skills and good knowledge of organized producer networks.

With 2SCALE, I am in contact with farmer organizations that are serious and credible, and that women come to buy in a group is good for my business. This allows me to know in advance which products I need to order, when I need to purchases and the volume I need. Therefore, I can order a larger volume and get margins of discounts with the big dealers I buy from.

I started in 2010, and our business turnover was barely 500,000 FCFA per year. In 2014, I we made around 2,000,000 FCFA. When we joined the vegetable cluster supported by with 2SCALE in 2016, in less than two years, we were able to achieve sales of 10,000,000 FCFA, just on vegetable crops. In the past, we imported vegetables from neighboring countries, specifically Burkina Faso. Today, this is happening here at home, and the market is growing very fast.

When I see what is going on in this sector, I always ask why unemployed youth prefer to immigrate to Libya, Europe, or the United States, when it is the same job they are likely going to do there. For example, I saw a documentary film about Canada, where we see that it is our brothers who produce carrots, tomatoes and cabbages in the gardens. We can do exactly the same thing here in Africa, because the market is here – the population is eating more and more vegetables. For example, around January and February, Burkina Faso’s tomato and onion are sold in Côte d’Ivoire, and young people usually say, “Oh you know, we do not have a job in this country.” No, there are jobs. What most of young people lack is courage.

What I can say is that agriculture does not betray anybody. Nowadays, a vegetable producer can make a better living than a civil servant. For example, I have a customer who made two loads of cabbage to sell to BOUAKE, and he made a profit of more than one million in three months – and that was after deducting all the charges such as the price of seeds, sowing, labor, and transportation!

Young Africans who are looking for a better life can have this life here in Africa through vegetable production, but the majority of young people only think about getting well dressed, driving luxury cars and showing off, but there is a moment for that. First, make money, honestly, and then you can have fun.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m proud of my work. I have nothing to envy to young people living in Europe or the United States. And even for all the gold in the world, I will not leave this job to seek happiness elsewhere. That was the testimony I wanted to pass.

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