“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” ― Malala Yousafzai

DID YOU KNOW THAT! The world’s youngest countries are all in Africa, with forecasts for 2020 showing just one non-African country – Afghanistan – in the top 20. Such a large number of young people presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the continent (World Population Prospects report 2019). Economic activities depend directly on the active population (youth) and Africa could do better if the continent can harness the advantage of a large youth population. However, a large unemployed youth could also present consequences for a healthy economy. For instance, the Ugandan and the Sierra Leonean wars were notably cited as wars with the involvement of young combatants whose involvement was associated with unemployment.

As 2020 draws to a close, I reflect on how the harsh experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world economy in terms of Agriculture, especially the women small-scale farmers. Does COVID19, women’s and youth land governance in Africa matter?  

One thing for sure is that young people’s access to land is as important as that of older adults. However, in most African countries, it is more challenging for youth people to access and obtain land for their economic welfare. With this situation, young women are even more hard-hit by the issue of accessing land and they (women) are often gets trapped within the domestic sphere and cultural believes and practices that go against women’s land ownership.  

According to the IFAD report,  youths cannot be considered as a homogeneous group a clear distinction needs to be made between young men and young women. To this effect, youth access to land in Africa has demonstrated differences between young men and young women. Most young men are less disadvantaged compared to their counterpart’s young women in access to land. In some communities in Africa, once you are born a male you are already advantaged over a born female in terms of access to life-sustaining things including land.

The year 2020, saw young women, women’s rights, and feminist organizations from all over the world ready to celebrate the twenty-fifth (25th) anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action taking stock of the progress in gender equality. Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 has meant that the marginal gains met in recent years can be eroded by its impact. One area that faces serious risk is women’s land and property rights including youth engagements. It also came at the time when women networks and leaders were pushing for the adoption of the Kilimanjaro Rural Women’s Charter of Demands, a landmark document endorsed by the African Union Commission in 2016 as a tool to engage with the African governments more effectively. 

The African Union agenda 2063 (Goal 17), which is a ten years implementation plan of the African Union (AU), recommends that 20% of rural women have access to and control of land by 2023, thus ensuring equitable access to land for women, men, and youth as a contributing factor in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. The COVID-19 crisis has compounded existing challenges related to the financing of sustainable development especially in Agriculture where women small-scale farmers are worst affected. Public finance for development in Agriculture remains critical. Further, there is a need for greater mobilization of financial resources, quicker disbursements, and a strategic alignment of resources to support youths in agri-business and women small-scale farmers as we build back better from Covid19. This can only be achieved if young people can access land and utilize it for agriculture as a way to self-employment.

Covid-19 has taught Africa governments a good lesson to promote sustainable agricultural development and the full implementation of the goal five (5) “gender equality” of the SDGs, which Rwanda has done fairly well in the continent. In Africa, gender discrimination in land ownership, land rights, and land access thwart the efforts of many women and their communities from realizing their full potential and contributing to sustainable development. Good land governance is cited as critical to achieving  African Union agenda 2063 and building the Africa we want, particularly goals related to the quality of life and well-being (AU Goal 1), agriculture (AU Goal 5), peace and security (AU Goal 13), and (AU Goal 17) Full Gender Equality in All Spheres of Life. 

Nevertheless, if policymakers fail to meet the expectations of younger generations, the future does not look bright. It is therefore important to have sustainable governance for inclusive societies to ensure lasting transformational change on youth’s access to land and property rights including young mothers, which requires action at the national and local levels with the meaningful and sustainable engagement of all stakeholders for shaping the narrative in building a more resilient economy. Youth access to land could also help in tackling the teaming unemployment in the continent and enhance welfare to achieve growth and development.


  1. It’s therefore important for African governments to implement fully the AU Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (AU-G-LPA)” at the national level and “promote the domestication of the Framework and Guidelines, besides, the Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa (LSLBI).” Key targets and indicators associated with AU Agenda 2063 that is supposed to be achieved by 2023 ensuring equitable access to land for women, men, and youth. 
  2. The 2030 Agenda should be placed at the heart of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as the guide to building back better. Ensuring gender equality and participation of women and youths in land governance by promoting and protecting their rights is key for recovery from the COVID19 pandemic and to achieving the AU Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 
  3. Further, for us to recover better from Covid19, Governments, donor institutions, learning institutions, and Non-state actors need to work collaboratively and sustainably to end gender-based violence, inequality, and end discrimination on women’s land rights by promoting sustainable development, encouraging participation and solidarity actions when it comes to tenure security for women and youths. 
  4. The Parliamentarians/ Governments to ensure that right investment is made to support smallholder farmers especially women and youths in agriculture, on agricultural finance, farm inputs, and Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA). 

Given this, the Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa (NELGA), in partnership with Youth Initiative for Land in Africa (YILAA), and land actors in francophone African countries. Had a dialogue during the International Conference on Land Governance for the benefit of Youth in Africa (CIGOFA) themed “Youth and governance: challenges and perspective for a sustainable economy in the African States” and discussed how youths and young women can actively participate in land governance for sustainable development in Africa.  

I am looking forward to the Implementation of commitments made during the ministerial meeting of the high-level and Social Council political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council in July 2020”

Article written by: Grace ANANDA, Gender and Women’s Land Expert – Yilaa Kenya Volunteer


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