Despite significant economic growth rates and remarkable progress in many areas, the African continent still faces many challenges. This is particularly the case for the agricultural sector, exposed to climate change risk, land insecurity with the absence of a land register, the difficult transition from subsistence farming to a more efficient economic model. While Africa covers nearly 60% of the arable land still available around the world, food insecurity and famine are still part of the lives of too many of our compatriots.
Like many sectors, agriculture is hit hard by the digital revolution. Topical issue, the 2017 edition of the Forum on the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) focused on “Exploiting the Digital Revolution for Agricultural Transformation”. Speaking on one of the panels, Mastercard Vice President of International Development, Salah Goss, summed up the challenges for agriculture to invest in the digital field: “Technology has done a lot for agriculture these past five years (…) It tackles the challenges of climate change, deforestation and increasing demography. It is important that we increase production. When we think technology is to improve the living conditions of farmers.
While the African youth is massively hit by unemployment, making agriculture “cool” in the words of the President of the African Development Bank is imperative not only to feed the continent but also to convince young people that the agricultural sector has many professional opportunities. Demonstrating the importance of the digital sector in agriculture would make it more attractive to young people, who are certainly the best-equipped segment of the population to lead the digital transformation of the continent.
Digital tools are essential for the competitiveness of African agriculture. They thus make it possible to save a lot of time, to catalog the agricultural data, to reduce the arduousness of the agricultural tasks. For Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), “Innovations in agriculture can contribute to enhancing food security, resilience and inclusive economic growth, especially when young people are involved in designing the future of the sector through the use of ICTs “.
Many projects flourish on the continent mixing digital and agriculture: the Agritools platform helps to give greater visibility to this phenomenon by identifying these initiatives linking innovation and agriculture, providing a window on local alternatives proposed by young African entrepreneurs.
These projects include, for example, Farm Fresh, a social enterprise that has set up an e-commerce platform, which has become the leading online food and delivery store in The Gambia. The company specializes in the sale of locally grown fresh vegetables, but also provides fruits and processed foods through partnerships with farmers and agri-food companies across the country. But also iShamba, a messaging service developed in Kenya that informs farmers in real time about possible weather warnings, market price variations and allows to receive advice from agronomists.
When we talk about digital Africa, it’s the endless example of mobile banking that always comes back. It’s now up to us to share the incredible opportunities that agriculture offers in the digital domain, to attract investors but also our young people to turn to African agriculture. This is how we can make agricultural growth a pillar of the continent’s economic and social success.