Africa must harness the enormous opportunities presented by digitalisation to transform agriculture in the next 10 years, the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) heard.
Leaders in government, business, technology and science gathered in Accra, Ghana, for the four-day event under the theme of ““Grow Digital: Leveraging digital transformation to drive sustainable food systems in Africa.”
Several panel discussions highlighted the potential for new and advanced technologies to help smallholder farmers across Africa to improve productivity and profitability.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), set the tone of the event in her opening address.
“How do we ensure that [digitalisation] actually takes us to the future we want to see? We hope we can use this AGRF to raise political awareness of what we want to see,” she said.
“We want this to be Africa’s decade, the decade to 2030. We want it to be the last decade we have to deal with food security issues.”
The event featured demonstrations and deal rooms, high-level political discussions and start-up pitches all aimed at driving forward the agenda for a Green Revolution in Africa.
Michael Hailu, director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), and Michael Tsan of Dalberg Advisors, presented a recent report, which found an untapped market of more than $2 billion for digitalisation in African agriculture.
The report surveyed more than 390 different digital tools in use across the continent, including mobile advisory services and online market platforms.
“The number of solutions has grown very, very quickly,” Mr. Tsan told the forum. “The good news is that 71 per cent of registered users are youth.”
CTA also hosted the finals of their Pitch AgriHack competition during the event in which innovators and entrepreneurs bid to win cash prizes and business support.
The African Development Bank and Purdue University launched a “Scale Up Sourcebook”, summarising key insights on scaling up agricultural innovations, while AGRA unveiled their Africa Agriculture Status report
Several speakers highlighted the growing challenge facing smallholder farmers from climate change, including Dominique Burgeon, of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who noted that the agricultural sector absorbed a quarter of the cost of climate disasters.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time, threatening to wipe out the hard-worn development gains across the continent,” said Ezzeddin Abu Steit, Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, during the presidential summit.
The gathering, which brought together 3,000 delegates from Africa and beyond, was also an opportunity to discuss the potential of the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Baba Dioum, who won this year’s Africa Food Prize together with Uganda’s Dr Emma Naluyima, told Farming First that the agreement had the potential to benefit smallholders.
“My real belief is that the value chain is a common will of smallholders, who want to join their efforts to produce together, to transform together, to transport together, to brand together and to sell together,” Mr. Dioum said.
“This is the way in which we think that agriculture will leave no actors down the road. Smallholders, medium farmers and big farmers can be together in this value chain.”
More from the 2019 African Green Revolution Forum on Farming First TV.