The article discusses youth policies in international arenas, noting the great variation in the ways in which youth is conceptualised and operationalised in policy and legislation. The next section explores policy discourses to assess assumptions that underpin youth policies in Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. It first summarises key debates in the international development community, and then analyses the philosophies of intervention of case country youth policies. Next, the article places the national youth policies within the context of academic debates on youth participation. The last section reconnects the discussion to the theme of youth in agriculture.