Thursday, July 2, 2020

Africa needs new ‘alliance for digitalisation’ of agriculture

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New digital services designed to boost African agriculture could reach 250 million farmers by 2030 but only with coordinated efforts across the continent, the African Green Revolution Forum heard.

Investment into digital innovations has so far been piecemeal across sub-Saharan Africa, achieving only six per cent penetration, according to a recent report by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and Dalberg Advisors.

But new tools aimed at smallholder farmers, such as mobile advisory services or online market platforms, could transform food production across Africa with the support and guidance of a dedicated alliance for digitalisation, the authors of the report said.

Presenting the findings of the Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report 2018-2019 at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), Michael Hailu, Director of CTA, said: “The potential for digital technologies and innovations to transform agriculture in Africa is enormous but there is currently no mechanism to promote partnership and channel investments to scale up digitalisation to reach millions of smallholder farmers.”

“An alliance for digitalisation bringing together governments, donors, investors, international bodies, farmer organisations and the agribusinesses should be created to advance inclusive, sustainable digitalisation for agriculture across Africa.”

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Mr Hailu delivered the report to the AGRF, which also recognised the growing importance of digitalisation in agriculture with the theme “Grow Digital: Leveraging digital transformation to drive sustainable food systems in Africa.”

The report highlighted key gaps in the recent growth of digitalisation, including uptake among women, who account for more than 40 per cent of the agricultural labour force yet make up around only 25 per cent of the registered users of digital services.

Increasing the reach of digitalisation among women, together with solutions for issues such as privacy and access, could be among the topics that an alliance could champion.

“The digitalisation for African agriculture market can learn a lot from the experiences of other technology sectors, including the value of tackling sector-wide, pre-competitive issues from the outset,” said Michael Tsan, partner at Dalberg Advisors and co-leader of the firm’s global Digital and Data Practice.

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“By sharing knowledge and developing partnerships, we can establish best practice that quickly allows the scaling up of effective digital innovations so that all of sub-Saharan Africa can benefit.”

During the AGRF, CTA also hosts the finals of its Pitch AgriHack competition, inviting entrepreneurs and innovators to present their start-up ideas that could help drive the transformation of African agriculture. Seven prizes will be awarded, each including €15,000 as well as business growth support.

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