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Finance Commissioner, Ekpenyong, insists Youth Participation Key to African Trade Agreement Success

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The Cross River state Commissioner of Finance, Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr, has said that the full involvement of youths in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) was key to the success of the trade agreement.

Ekpeyong, who spoke in Durban, South Africa where he represented Cross River in the African Trade Conference, said the time has indeed come for African leaders to create a pathway for youths to thrive in building their country’s economy through holistic participation.
“On the continent today, there are approximately 541 Million people between the ages of 0 to 15 years, while a further estimated 455 Million people are between the ages of 16 to 35 years of age. This in effect means that for a continent of approximately 1.4 Billion people, people under the age of 35 account for over 70% of the population.
“This in effect means that the key success factor to the Trade Agreement is youth active participation and inclusion in the trade agreement,” he stated.

The Commissioner added that said Governor Ben Ayade understood the critical need to ensure total integration of youths in the local economy hence their massive involvement in governance and agro business.

“Having understood that one of the greatest challenges facing the country at the moments stems from the non-utilization of the youth factor in our economy, the Cross River state governor, His Excellency Senator Ben Ayade, has taken steps to adopt the simplest ways to utilise their high level of energy through engagement in the agricultural sector,” he explained.

Ekpenyong called for sensitization at the local level, at the grassroots level, in the rural & provincial towns in what was carried out at the policy formulation stage.
“The youths need to be emotionally involved, actively involved; and just by the sheer providence of age and the logic of time, they have the greatest stake in this trade agreement because they have more active years of service and in commerce.
“Now there are certain limitations in business that youths usually have. One is access to cheap capital. Most of the countries in Africa have weak infrastructure in terms of power, in terms of roads to provide logistics, water and other inputs required in production or commerce,” says Ekpenyong.
Ekpenyong reasoned that Africa’s existing challenges was linked to inability of African leaders to domesticate production of most basic needs and provision of jobs to the teeming and dynamic youth population, and therefore charged them to deliberately set out to empower and to build capacity among the young people; provide access to capital and set up a framework that would eliminate the issue of adverse selection and moral hazard.
He explained further that there was a preponderance of subsistence farming in Africa and in Nigeria in particular, and that this may have prompted Governor Ayade’s decision to develop mechanized farming model to ensure efficient and effective output in the State.

According to him, the challenges of acquisition of large scale land, land preparation, acquisition of machinery/equipment, working capital were barriers inhibiting mechanized farming.
“What the Governor has done is to develop a 360 Degree Model to drive youth participation in mechanized farming. The administration intends to start by identifying young people in the State that are interested in agriculture, it thereafter will design a capacity building & skills acquisition programme to develop their skills and capabilities.
“The administration will proceed to acquire large parcels of land, as well as, develop/prepare them, demarcate and allocate them to beneficiaries of the training programs. These beneficiaries will also be provided with inputs and working capital.
“Under this 360 Model, the state ultimately intends to off-take the various produce and crops for processing in the state owned industries such as the Cocoa Processing Mill, the rice mills etc”, Ekpenyong reiterated.

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