This paper is motivated by the consistent portrayal, within current policy discourse, of agriculture and the broader rural economy in Africa as domains of opportunity for rural youth. It presents a new conceptualization of landscapes of rural youth opportunity, where these landscapes reflect an individual’s reading of the complex interplay between economic geography; local history, agrarian relations, institutions and politics; social and cultural norms; family influences; education and experience; aspirations and preferences; and access to resources. The argument is that it is essential to acknowledge the importance of opportunity structures, and avoid anything that suggests that individual characteristics, such as agency, aspirations, skills, entrepreneurial behaviour and “good choices” should be the primary considerations in relation to an “investing in youth” strategy. The paper also presents new empirical analysis of young people’s engagement with the rural economy using LSMS data from six African countries.
- rural development
- rural youth