The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with Africa Lead has initiated an Internship Partnership Network dubbed Entrepreneurship for Opportunity Actualization (EOpAct).
This is to build entrepreneurial and vocational skills among young people to exploit industry opportunities.
The EOpAct, which is being implemented by the Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP), is intended to bridge skills-set gap between industry, academia and graduates.
It also seeks to sharpen the skills of young people to fit into industry while at the same time hone the skills of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to become productive, profitable and competitive.
EOpAct is a purely hands-on industry related programme targeting the agricultural and agribusiness value chains specifically horticulture, livestock and grains sector.
Mr Dan Acquaye, Executive Director for ASNAPP, said at the launch of the EOpAct in Accra that about 30 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product comes from Agriculture and 70 per cent of the entire African population depends on Agriculture for their livelihood.
He said Agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of Africa’s foreign exchange, and investments in African Agriculture has four times economic impact than investments in any other sector.
Mr Acquaye said Africa has the youngest population in the world and 10 to 12 million youth are added every year while over 40 per cent are under the ages of 15 and 20.
However, he noted that the youth accounts for 60 per cent of Africa’s unemployed, causing about 70 per cent of them to live on less than two dollars a day.
He disclosed that the programme is not limited to students, SMEs, or graduates with agriculture background but also opened to those with other career or academic backgrounds.
Mr Kobina Beecham, Chief Executive Officer of the Youth Employment Agency, who represented the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, said government has urged the Agency to recruit 100,000 youth this year.
He said the Agency has already received 150,000 applications, adding that it is therefore a useful and important initiative from USAID and its partner organisations to reduce the unemployment rate in the country, hence the need to commend them.
Professor Richard Akromah, Provost of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, said sometimes it becomes challenging to find appropriate placements for the students due to the large number of students to be placed in the few available organisations.
“Even if we do, we are unable to do follow up checks on our students and all the organisations to find out the progress and attitude of the students due to the large numbers”, he said.
Prof Akromah said sometimes it also becomes challenging for them to secure placements of internship for the students due to the fore-negative attitude exhibited by past interns in an organisation, thereby making the organisation reluctant to accept new interns.
He commended the USAID, Africa Lead and ASNAPP for the opportunities being given to reduce unemployment rates in the country.