ICTs for Development

Markets and Value Chains

GFIA Africa – Driving innovation for an agricultural revolution

For immediate release - Durban, 30 November 2015

November 30, 2015

An international forum designed to showcase how sustainable technologies can offer solutions to some of agriculture’s most pressing challenges opens tomorrow in Durban, South Africa. The first African edition of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA Africa) organized in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) will explore the continent’s strong potential for tapping into science, technology and innovation that can revolutionise agricultural production and trade. In the run-up of this event, CTA and farmers' organizations are holding a Continental Briefing on Advancing African Agriculture through Agribusiness Development as well as a series of side events. The events will explore the challenges and opportunities for agribusiness Development in Africa, as well as innovations for climate-smart and ICT solutions for agriculture.

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As a major driver of African economies, agriculture has much to gain from innovations that can help to reduce food insecurity and counteract the negative impacts of climate change. With African entrepreneurs in the forefront of exciting new developments, such as information delivery by mobile phone, there is strong scope for harnessing sustainable technologies in a whole range of areas, from targeted input supply for higher crop yields to alternative energy production to protect valuable natural resources.

Topics on the agenda at GFIA Africa, which is being held on 1-2 December with the theme of Innovations and technologies in agriculture to leapfrog Africa's development, will include agribusiness development for agricultural transformation in Africa, climate-smart agriculture, agricultural investment and finance and ICTs for sustainable agriculture. Throughout the conference, presentations will be made on cutting-edge technologies that can improve production and mitigate other challenges. A session organised by CTA will examine the potential for using drones in agriculture.

"Just as several African countries have leapfrogged fixed telephone lines and went straight to mobile phones and tablets, so too can Africa make huge strides in taking advantage of revolutions in bio-technology, precision agriculture, irrigation, solar power and many other areas that are increasingly within the reach of small-scale farmers, traders and other key players in the agriculture value chain," said CTA Director Michael Hailu. "At GFIA Africa, we will see many examples to demonstrate that the continent has much to offer the rest of the world in terms of innovation in agriculture and rural development."

The conference will bring together public decision-makers, private sector and civil society leaders to discuss what has been achieved through innovative technologies drawn from Africa and beyond, and how to scale up successful solutions. Issues to be discussed include the need for responsible investment, appropriate policy environments, creating regional markets and value chains and developing rural infrastructure.

In one of a range of side events staged prior to the conference, the 3rd Pan African Farmer's Organisation (PAFO) Continental Briefing addressed the challenges and opportunities for agribusiness offered by innovative technologies in Africa. Taking the theme Advancing African Agriculture through Agribusiness Development, the two-day briefing was jointly organised by PAFO, CTA and the African Union Commission.

The event, which was linked to the CTA-led bi-monthly Brussels Briefings and will feed into the GFIA Africa conference itself, highlighted key opportunities for farmer's organisations in agribusiness development. It also sought to promote sustainable and inclusive public-private partnerships and identified new opportunities in data and ICTs to foster agribusiness and agricultural development in Africa. Sessions presented successes from farmer-led agribusiness ventures, discussed how to improve financial inclusion to support agribusiness and investigated opportunities offered by big data and precision agriculture.

"Farmers in Africa have the aspiration to slay the dragon of poverty in our lifetime. This can only be done by the creation of wealth," said Theo de Jager, President of PAFO. "Agriculture has all the potential to do just that, but on condition that the African farmers leapfrog in technology and innovation."

Also in the lead up to GFIA Africa, a series of Farmers Sessions focused on practical and proven climate-smart solutions, private sector engagement and farmers' perspectives and positions on scaling up climate change innovations in Africa.

Two events based on models pioneered by CTA showcased the power of ICTs to address agricultural challenges. The Durban AgriHack Talent Challenge, aimed at promoting young people's ICT innovations for agriculture, staged a software coding competition which will be followed by an incubation process for the winning entries.

Meanwhile, a Plug & Play programme enabled African innovators to present their innovations, and participants to try them out, in a hands-on experience designed to encourage the development of ICT solutions and build partnerships for business.

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For more information, please contact:
Stéphane Gambier, Senior Programme Coordinator Communication (CTA)
Tel.: +31 (0)317 46 71 79