The Covid pandemic has drawn global attention to the drastic need for food systems to change and become more efficient, profitable and far reaching. Longer term solutions such as land reform and policy change have come to the fore, but many are turning to agricultural technology (agritech) as a way to shape that future. This has prevented a race to create new innovations and technologies in recent years.
Agricultural technology is extensive. Agritech can be as complex as a real farm robot, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, to plant, water and weed your grow beds. Or it can be as simple as a USSD code that allows a rural farmer to access this week’s weather forecast and planting advice on a 15-year-old cell phone.
One of the results of this innovation surge is that African agriculture is developing rapidly. According to a survey conducted by Microsoft, between 2016 and 2019, the sector grew 44% year-on-year and the continent recorded the highest number of agro-tech services in the developing world, reaching over 33 million smallholder farmers at this time. day.
Although there is a wide range of agro-tech innovations that can propel African farmers towards profitability, only 23 percent of young people engaged in agriculture use any form of agricultural technology, noting a lack of funding and training, according to a new survey carried out in 11 countries by Génisse Internationale.
A report released by the African Development Bank Group said Africa holds 65 percent of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land and an abundance of fresh water, but in 2017 Africa spent 64, $ 5 billion to import food. To further develop Africa’s agricultural industry, the World Bank Group notes that modern farming methods can transform it “into a business-oriented and commercially viable sector that ensures the continent’s food self-sufficiency and ends the food insecurity and malnutrition ”.
By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to a third of the world’s youth, who will play a key role in feeding future generations. No region has this phenomenon – of having more young people in the future – than sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, according to the United Nations, young people under 25 make up about 60 percent of Africa’s population. Yet they often view agriculture as inefficient, socially immobile, and technically uninteresting. Hence, the average age of African farmers is 60 while the median age is 19.
Engaging young people in agriculture is essential to recover from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, both to rejuvenate the continent’s agrifood system and to develop economic opportunities for young Africans.
Today, across the continent, young African fintech entrepreneurs with foresight are developing creative and useful agro-tech tools and services for smallholder farmers, and riding a wave of increased investment in agritech that is pouring into the continent. . Fintech startups are increasingly using various technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), open source software, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, drones and big data analytics. Many start-ups have developed solutions targeting various aspects of agriculture including finance, supply chain, retail, and even providing crop and weed information. These solutions are accessible to farmers via front terminals such as smartphones and tablets, or even SMS.
And some agrotech start-ups in Africa are developing solutions that increase the productivity of farms. For example,
- Drones and satellite imagery are revolutionary technology, helping farmers supervise crops and manage farms. They capture photos of crops, soil and weeds and use the data to provide information to farmers. These technologies save time and energy, while directly leading to improvements in productivity.
- Network sensors enable smart farm management by providing details of crops, soil, equipment or livestock.
- Integrated finance platforms offer new financial services to farmers, covering credit, farm inputs, insurance and market access through machine learning, remote sensing and mobile technology.
This bodes well for the continent’s agricultural industry and our food security. The fact that the most energetic and productive segment of the population focuses on agriculture will only lead to exponential improvements in the quality and quantity of the output of African farmers. It’s time to
young Africans who wish to enter the agricultural sector to know that financing and training options are available to help create businesses that can provide sustainable incomes and rewarding careers. It is an exciting time to play a role in the development of agritech in Africa.
Efayomi Carr is director at Thrive in companies, a global Fintech venture capital firm.