Young people are increasingly linked to targeted agriculture and food security interventions. In Africa, the argument is that the combination of agricultural value chains, technology and entrepreneurship will unlock a sweet spot for youth employment.
This article examines this argument from a rural transformations perspective. A framework is proposed with which to analyse young people’s economic room to manoeuvre in different rural contexts and the differential abilities of young people to exploit associated opportunities. Using cereal agri-food systems as an example, the article identifies two new research areas that address important knowledge gaps: how young rural people in Africa engage with these systems and what pathways they use to become engaged. To address these questions, we propose an analytical framework built around key contextual factors that constrain or enable young people’s economic activity. By pursuing the proposed research agenda, international agricultural research could make important contributions to both agricultural policy debates and development-oriented interventions.