Why unemployment has forced young, educated Tanzanian youths to invest in agriculture instead

Deborah at her office in town. Photo by Oluwabusayo Sotunde
Deborah Simon Malaba at her office in Mwanza. Photo by Oluwabusayo Sotunde

Youth unemployment is one of the most pressing issues in Tanzania and the number of young people who enter the labour force exceeds the available jobs. According to official data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2014, the economy created about 282,382 formal-sector jobs while an estimated 800,000 to one million youths entered the labour market at the same time. Yet, the number of job seekers is expected to double by 2030. According to the World Bank, the size of Tanzania’s youth, which was about 8.1 million in 2010, will rise to 11 million by 2020 and 15 million by 2030. In the near absence of formal jobs, especially for entry-level positions, many educated young people are turning to agriculture and agribusiness for employment opportunities.

From Dar es Salaam to Arusha up to the lake region in Mwanza, a growing number of educated youths are now investing in agriculture. One of such people is Deborah Simon Malaba. After struggling to make ends meet as a journalist, the young mother of one quit her job to go into vegetable farming in 2016. “My employers owed me money, and I thought, ‘I waste my time here, my energy, and use my creativity without getting anything and I have a son who depends on me’. So I decided to go into agribusiness,” she told How we made it in Africa during an interview. Before venturing into agribusiness, Deborah did some research and discovered that vegetable products were in high demand in Tanzania. She got more interested in the business because it promised quick revenue compared to what she got at her media job, where she had to wait until the end of the month to get paid.

Deborah started her vegetable farming business with Tsh.4m (US$1,790), which she borrowed from her relatives. Part of the money was used to buy two hectares of land in a rural area, not far from Mwanza airport. For irrigation purposes, her farm is strategically positioned near the lake. About 46 per cent of Tanzania’s land is arable and has never been touched. “It is easy to have access to land in Tanzania. You can either own it or lease it for a while. The only challenge is the cost of the land, especially in urban areas. It costs three or four times lesser in rural areas,” Deborah explained. After harvesting, the farm produce is taken to the city and sold in market stalls and supermarkets. With the rise of structured retail – supermarkets and shopping malls – Tanzanian marketers are encouraging young entrepreneurs to go into agribusiness.

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