In July this year, the first of four undersea fibre-optic cables went live, connecting Africans along the eastern corridor to high-speed broadband internet. The lines touch ground in Mombasa (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Maputo (Mozambique), and Mtunzini (South Africa).
This new cable should substantially reduce the time it takes to seek out information online, the cost of making calls abroad, and the technical obstacles which small-scale businesses have faced in launching data-heavy websites. Some experts speculate that it could also boost activity in commodity and stock exchanges.
The importance of infrastructure to economic development is clear. And for agriculture, this has traditionally meant the building of irrigation systems, of utilities, and of roads to markets.
Yet, in today’s world, a fast and reliable connection to information is also important for farmers. More severe and variable weather patterns as a result of climate change mean that farmers need better meteorological information and planting advice. Increasingly globalised markets require up-to-date information on prices and regulations abroad. And online marketing of crops can help cooperatives and other smaller-scale farm groups make more profit from the crops they grow.