The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) confirms closure by end of 2020.
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Ensuring digitalisation: a force for good for African agriculture

Analysis

AGRF2019 Plenary Closing ceremony

© CTA

To capitalise on the growing movement in digitalisation for agriculture (D4Ag), CTA published a sector-defining report on D4Ag in 2019 in collaboration with Dalberg Advisors. This first-of-its-kind analytical report compiles and highlights contemporary data on digital solutions that are enabling the transformation of African agriculture.

“The CTA/Dalberg report provides the D4Ag landscape and highlights the benefits of digitalisation, which will enable us to engage with governments, the private sector and donors around specific projects.” Enock Chikava, Deputy Director for Agricultural Development, Global Growth & Opportunity, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

From drones to the Internet-of-Things, blockchain and artificial intelligence, the proliferation of accessible digital technologies is opening up tremendous opportunities to transform smallholder agriculture into profitable, sustainable and inclusive businesses. Since 2012, there has been a 44% annual growth rate in the number of digital platforms and services for African agriculture. To highlight the full potential of D4Ag, The Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report maps out more than 390 digital solutions in African agriculture that are already serving 33 million smallholder farmers. Nevertheless, the current addressable market was estimated at €2.3 billion, of which only a fraction is currently being realised. Critically, the landmark report also provides a forecast for the period 2025-2030 – a first for the sector to help donors and investors identify D4Ag opportunities.

In line with CTA’s commitment to partnerships, 17 high-level institutions – including development agencies and the private sector engaged in D4Ag – worked together as part of an advisory council for developing the report. The publication’s launch in Rome at the African Union-European Union Agriculture Ministerial conference in June 2019, and also at the 2019 Africa Green Revolution Forum in Accra, Ghana, provided a further opportunity for interested partners to share experiences and create a space for future collaboration. “We fully endorse the key recommendations made in the D4Ag report as this sector will not develop unless a wider coalition of stakeholders come together to create an enabling ecosystem for digitally-enabled agriculture,” affirms Parmesh Shah, Global Lead for Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Jobs at the World Bank.

D4Ag recommendations

Calling for greater collaboration

However, if digital initiatives are to be scaled up and really have an impact, then collaboration is essential to avoid duplication, and investment must move from the public to private sector. One of the report’s key messages is that, until now, development of the sector has been mostly donor driven and rather piecemeal. “The landmark report provides desperately-needed intelligence on the market of D4Ag solutions in sub-Saharan Africa. Stakeholders across the sector need to understand the size, character and coverage of the market to optimise interventions. I’m sure that 5 years from now such solutions will be adopted at scale,” states Christian Merz, Senior Advisor at the German development agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

The appetite for international collaboration is evident in the proposed development of an International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture, which will advise governments and other relevant actors, drive the exchange of ideas and experiences and help everyone harness the opportunities presented by digitalisation. CTA is one of nine agencies that contributed to the development of the concept note endorsed by over 70 agriculture ministers and officials at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture held in Berlin in January 2020.

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Driving the agenda: prompting policy action

CTA has played a key role in asking – and answering – critical questions about the future of agriculture and sustainable development in ACP countries. Leveraging its expertise in agricultural knowledge, innovation and technology, the Centre effectively contributed to pushing these issues higher up the policy agenda.

Inspiring digital entrepreneurs to modernise agriculture

Through its support of entrepreneurs, CTA has been a driving force in helping young people to develop digital solutions to transform agriculture, and in encouraging the next generation to see the potential of farming and agribusiness.

Going digital: the benefits of bundling

Bundling multiple services – and selling them as a single combined unit – is delivering greater value to smallholder farmers and more economic benefits to any business offering the products. CTA has been proving the case in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Flying high: drones take off in Africa

Pioneering drone-based services are beginning to transform Africa’s agriculture sector into a high-tech industry. CTA was among the first organisations to recognise that unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – or systems based on drone technology – could help smallholder farmers become more productive, sustainable and profitable.

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