In introducing this collection of articles we argue that policy framing and policy responses to the ‘problem’ of young people and agriculture in Africa are hampered by a lack of research and evidence that is theoretically and historically informed, conceptually sound and context sensitive. The result is policy that is well intentioned, but unlikely to address the underlying social or agricultural concerns. To address this we outline a research agenda that places the notion of ‘opportunity space’ at centre stage. We suggest that an analysis of the changing structure of opportunity space for young people in agriculture and agri‐food in the context of broader agrarian transitions will be particularly useful. Social difference as it affects young people’s ability to exploit the agri‐food opportunity space must be central to this analysis.