Remarks by HE John Dramani Mahama, Former President of The Republic of Ghana on “AGRICULTURE IS COOL: ENGAGING AFRICA’S YOUTH” at the African Development Bank Group Annual Meetings 2017, Ahmedabad, India. May 22-25, 2017.
Thank you Lerato for the introduction
Let me also thank the President of the African Development Bank, my good friend Dr. Adesina and his team for the invitation to me and other distinguished African citizens, some of who are on this afternoon’s panel.
I am happy to be part of the quest to find solutions to the agricultural challenge that faces Africa, but which can be transformed into a multi-million-dollar opportunity for the continent and for our youth especially.
As an African leader who just left office, one of the most frustrating growth statistics for me has been that of the agricultural sector. Other sectors have been clipping along at quite a fast pace, and in Ghana the service sector overtook agriculture as the largest contributor to GDP in 2010.
Services now account for some 54.1% of GDP and agriculture stands at 19.0%. While this is normal for a modernizing economy, agriculture and agribusiness still represents the sector that can soak up the pressure we are all feeling from the rapidly expanding African youth bulge.
I felt cool when I noticed I had been requested to make a statement on the theme “Agriculture is cool: Engaging Africa’s Youth.” The bane of African agriculture is the disinterest of our educated young people in the sector. The perception of most is that agriculture is back breaking, dirty work and is meant for the aged and illiterate rural population. This is a great pity, because agriculture is a science, it is no longer a way of life, it is a business.
Africa needs its educated youth who can understand the principles of increased agricultural productivity to participate in the sector. If you put in the right factors of agricultural production- labour, good seeds, good soil, water, sunshine, plant nutrients, right weed and pest control- you will achieve the same result on each occasion – ABUNDANCE.
To achieve that we have to make agriculture cool! And it’s not the cool our generation is familiar with. For the youth or the millennial, cool is not the absence of heat. It can mean good, pleasant, elegant, fashionable, delicious, and many other things depending on the context in which they use it.
Learning to communicate with this millennial group is a whole subject in itself. For our generation cool is the antonym for heat. Something is cool when it is not hot. If my father should resurrect, he will be totally flabbergasted in his communication with his grandchildren.
For my son when he says ‘Dad your Jacket is cool’ it means my jacket is fashionable or nice. But he can hit you with this one too “Dad you look hot”. It doesn’t mean I am sweating.
Cool- Hot. He might be eating hot food and say “this food is cool”, he means the food is delicious. You don’t need to offer to heat it in the microwave for him. Or my younger son falls of his bike and I ask with concern, “Jesse are you hurt”, “No Dad, I’m cool”. It means he is not hurt.
Author: John Dramani Mahama
Former President of The Republic of Ghana