Agriculture in Africa cannot escape the digital revolution. Far from it. It has already begun to feel its effects, as participants heard on Friday 8 September in Abidjan, during the closing ceremony of the 2017 edition of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), a ceremony with the theme of 'Exploiting the Digital Revolution for Agricultural Transformation'.
Bearing witness to the quality of the work carried out during the past week of AGRF 2017, there was talk of big data, ICT, spatial geo-technology... in short, the future of agriculture in Africa. These innovations will have a key role to play in meeting a wide range of challenges, including – not least – food crises, drought, productivity and attracting young people to the sector.
"The challenges will be met by those who have a vision, using new technologies to ensure viable solutions," said Mikael Hook, manager of the Rural Apprenticeship Laboratory.
The third revolution of the agricultural sector
The week ended on an optimistic note: with new information and communication technologies (ICTs), the agricultural sector is going through its third revolution. Food security will be improved and producers' incomes maximised.
"Technology has done a lot for agriculture over the past five years," said Salah Goss, vice-president of international development at MasterCard. "It is tackling the challenges of climate change, deforestation and demographic growth. It is important that we increase production. When we think of technology, it is to improve the living conditions of farmers."
One of the major challenges for farmers in Africa is to take charge of these digital tools. "Digital technology provides a one-stop shop for producers, to distribute their seeds and inputs," she added. And much more: digital technology can reduce the time needed and the hardship of agricultural activities; it can provide access to farming big data.
But the development of these information highways for agriculture requires the integration of young people, who carry an increasing economic weight due to the demographic boom, and for whom digital technology is a way of life.
"Innovations in agriculture can help to provide greater food security, resilience and inclusive economic growth, especially when young people are involved in shaping the sector's future through the use of ICTs," said Michael Hailu, director of the CTA.
Pitch AgricHack 2017! Bearing witness to the ongoing revolution
As a testimony to the ongoing digital revolution, the winners of the Pitch AgriHack! West Africa 2017 contest presented their platforms at the closing ceremony.
The winner of Pitch AgriHack! West Africa 2017, Thierno Souleymane Agne of Senegal, has created Bayseddo, "A platform that aims to connect farmers who have land but need financing, with economic actors who have financing capacity, but no land, and are willing to invest in agriculture." It is a tool that meets the need of ensuring financial inclusion, said Salah Goss of MasterCard, who also stressed the importance of "having innovative business models to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to all."