AGRF Panelists Show How Africa Can Ride on Agricultural Technologies for Food Systems Transformation
While the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the situation for farmers in various ways, it positively invited attention to the need for digital technologies in driving Africa’s food system transformation.
This was as farmers found new connections to input suppliers and markets using various digital tools. Consequently, the continent witnessed a rapid integration of digital and innovative technologies within every stage of the agricultural value-chain, all in just two years.
Recognizing the need to build on this digital transformation opportunity, innovators, researchers and policy makers met at an AGRF 2021 summit session on Friday September 10, 2021 to discuss the sustainability of emerging digital solutions for African agriculture problems.
Kicking off the conversation, Maura Barry, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security at USAID, said that the full potential of digitalization in agriculture could be realized earlier through investments in infrastructure development and farmer education.
“In some emerging economies, the adoption of even basic digital tools is low due to a low digital technology coverage and digital literacy,” she said, adding that these gaps must be filled for an increased adoption of digital innovations in agriculture.
Ms. Barry went on to note that even more investments are required to accelerate the uptake of digital technologies by women agripreneurs in emerging economies, who contribute greatly to food system transformation objectives, but are often marginalized.
“Women [in emerging economies] are 20% less likely [than men] to own a smartphone, and 43% less likely to engage online, and this has real consequences for their families and for food production. This is as research shows that access to digital finance services strengthens women’s household decision-making power and increases their labour force participation,” she said.
Innovators on the panel appealed to both government and private sector players to commit resources to supporting startup enterprises in the agri-business space.
“An increase in digital literacy can only take place once access is increased…we invite governments, private sector players to invest in agri-tech SMEs for long-term socio-economic benefits,” said Dexter Tangocci, co-founder, CTO and Geo-spatial analyst of Integrated Aerial Systems.
E-Soko CEO, Daniel Asare-Kyei, added that more investments are required in startups that increase the access to agricultural information by farmers.
“There is a rare race of farmers getting competitive information from different sources. As such, there is a need to promote media amongst other technology startups,” he said.
Fellow speakers at the session, from Mercy Corps, Safaricom, Yara, CTA, Microsoft, McGill University, FAO, KALRO and the Ethiopia’s Agriculture Transformation Agency (ATA), highlighted the roles of their different organizations in the promotion of digital agriculture objectives in Africa.