Africa is on the move, with signs of progress and growing prosperity for millions of its people.
The continent has witnessed sustained economic growth and a modernization of its economy for more than two decades powered by an inclusive agricultural transformation and by rapid growth in digital innovations. Its economy grew by 35% between 2000 and 2014 and poverty rates are falling, with the percentage of people living on less than $1.90 a day declining from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2013. This is, indeed, Africa’s century!
Sustained agricultural transformation will remain at the centre of driving Africa’s progress and development; no matter how far we look into the future and how much the world continues to innovate. Evidence from elsewhere in the world backs this up. Nearly every country in the world has gone through an agricultural revolution on the path to its wider economic transformation, including in Europe during the 18th century, the US in the 19th century, and much of Asia and Latin America from as recent as the 1950s. Africa will be no exception. African countries must complete the same journey, but they should not take the same path. Africa can do it faster, more effectively, and in a sustainable manner by building on local realities, lessons from the past and elsewhere, and through innovations of today and tomorrow.
The continent is at an advantage as today’s green revolution is happening at a time when life-changing technologies are part of our everyday lives. Computers and the internet didn’t exist when the US underwent their green revolution and cell phones were barely a pipe dream when Asia transformed it agriculture. This gives Africa an opportunity to leapfrog the agricultural transformation trajectory of the past and revolutionise life by overcoming isolation, speeding up change, creating jobs of the future, and taking success to scale.
Digital technologies are emerging as one of the most important of these innovations. Their unprecedented growth and adoption has ushered in the era of disruptive digital innovation, knowledge economies and big agri-data. For example, mobile-based technologies have become an integral a part of life in most parts of Africa with more than 80 percent of sub-Africans having access to mobile phones. It is projected that over 660 million Africans will own a smart phone by 2020. Across the continent, evidence exists of farmers that are embracing smart farming by applying digital technologies. The advent of newer technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, remote sensing, robotics and big data make the future much more exciting.
This new era provides very real opportunity to leverage the youth of the continent. Many of today’s young people have grown up with technology in the palms of their hands. They ‘get it’ and coming up with innovations is second nature to young entrepreneurs striving to make a difference. Agriculture needn’t be seen as toiling the fields by the next generation, it can indeed be cutting edge – even sexy. If the continent’s agri-sector can harness the power of the tech savvy, the green revolution can go to new heights.
We are extremely fortunate to be hosted for the 2019 AGRF by the Government of Ghana, one of the leading countries on the continent that has placed agricultural transformation at the centre of its economic transformation and adopted a digitalization and pro-technology strategy.
Under the leadership of H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, the 2019 AGRF will be attended by more than 2,000 delegates and high-level dignitaries, including current and former Heads of State and Government; Agriculture and Finance Ministers; Central Bank Governors; eminent leaders of global and regional development institutions; top industry captains from the national, regional, and global private sector; mobile network operators; tech leaders and agri-preneurs; and lead representatives of farmer organizations and key non-governmental implementing partners.
The digital era offers many new innovations and breakthroughs – seemingly every year – that will allow the African continent to get ahead of the curve, and more efficiently and sustainably unlock the full potential of its smallholder farmers and agribusiness sector. This is not simply a case of ‘out with the old, in with the new’. Progress will be greatest for those who learn to bring the two together. We must seize this moment to achieve our aspirations. With the right policies, programmes, and investments, we can ensure that smallholder farmers prosper, that our women are empowered, that our youth enter and shape a vibrant agri-food economy, that our food systems become more sustainable and nutritious, and that we build a prosperous Africa.
Africa Food Prize
The Africa Food Prize is the preeminent award recognizing an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa—from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.
The US $100,000 prize celebrates Africans who are taking control of Africa’s agriculture agenda. It puts a spotlight on bold initiatives and technical innovations that can be replicated across the continent to create a new era of food security and economic opportunity for all Africans. More