Africa has vast arable lands which remain untapped. However, experts believe digital services in the agriculture sector in Africa could worth over $2.26 billion. To fast-track the transformation of agriculture, technology giant, Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative is collaborating with Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to support the digitization of Agriculture in Africa. However, the program will start with Kenya and Ghana. In a statement, the Regional Director of Microsoft 4Afrika, Amrote Abdella, said,
“We’re excited to work with AGRA in building locally-relevant technology solutions. These technologies are mindful of challenges local farmers face, offering solutions to farmers and policymakers alike to deliver meaningful impact.”
Signing the transformation of agriculture agreement for AGRA on Tuesday, 3rd September 2019 was the vice president, Country Support and Delivery, Vanessa Adams. The signing was during a press conference at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2019 in Accra. While AGRA will focus on developing new programs and improving existing ones, Microsoft will bring its digital capabilities to provide technological support.
The long-term goal of the collaboration to the transformation of agriculture in Africa
The mid-term goal of AGRA is to improve food security for 30 million farmers across 11 African nations by 2021. However, the collaboration will allow both parties to explore artificial intelligence and big data in the transformation of Agriculture in Africa through enabling data-driven, precision farming that increases farm profitability and productivity. According to Abdella,
“Agriculture is a priority sector of investment for us. It sustains some 70 percent of livelihoods. We believe technology can significantly contribute to the transformation of the sector. Africa has a large number of farmers with varying farming practices. However, we believe technology can augment this knowledge to improve crop yields.”
The partnership is part of Microsoft’s ongoing agritech investment for the transformation of agriculture across the continent. However, Microsoft also supports a number of African agritech start-ups like Virtual City, SunCulture, Twiga Foods, and N-Funds. Abdella said,
“Using Microsoft-enabled IoT technology, organizations like SunCulture have helped farmers increase crop yields by 300 percent, and increase income for farmers.”
The biggest challenge to agricultural productivity
The biggest challenge to the transformation of agriculture in Africa remains the use of outdated production practices and technologies. However, most of the farmers in the continent are not to be blamed. Farmers will likely adopt new technologies only when they are affordable, useful, and locally available. However, with the partnership, Microsoft and AGRA hopes to;
- Support farmers through digital training to easily adopt new technologies
- Support government engagement around the design of national agriculture digitization strategies as well as policy advocacy.
- Develop digital skills in agriculture through an internship program.
According to John Deere Financial, the use of data can lead to the transformation of agriculture by increasing Africa’s agricultural yields. This will place farmers in the continent at the heart of tomorrow’s global economy. In a statement, the Managing Director: Sub Saharan Africa, John Deere Financial, Antois van der Westhuizen said,
“New technologies readily available to Africa’s farmers mean that the continent is finally at the moment where Africa’s vast, as-yet-unrealized, agricultural opportunity can be made relevant to capital, mechanization and new global markets.”