Today, Microsoft hosted a virtual roundtable on the digital transformation of agriculture for food security in Africa.
The roundtable explored how accelerating digital transformation in agriculture is leading to agritech developments that are having a tangible positive impact on food security in Africa.
With agriculture supports up to 70% of Africa’s livelihoodsMicrosoft is working with government and private sector partners to enable data-driven, connected, precision agriculture that optimizes yields and drives farm productivity and profitability.
The conversation was led by Ola WilliamsMicrosoft Nigeria Country Manager, in discussion with partners from the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) and the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture (NIRSAL).
The discussion explored the ways agritech is changing outcomes for farmers across the continent, unlocking productivity and helping farmers access the latest agricultural information and advice.
Africa’s agricultural sector is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, with a projected value of $1 trillion by 2030.
The continent has also seen rapid growth in e-agriculture solutions and is poised to become the global center for agritech solutions.
In 2021, agriculture contributed 22.35% of the total GDP of Nigeriawith over 70% of Nigerians engaged in agriculture, largely at a subsistence level.
As the Nigerian government seeks to diversify and move away from reliance on oil as a source of revenue, it has become important to explore ways to make agriculture in Nigeria more profitable to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider agriculture as a viable means of subsistence.
Innovative ideas are needed
One of the ways agritech is changing the face of agriculture is through the democratization of information.
Agriculture is the main driver of employment in Nigeria; however, the sector has seen reduced attention after the oil era until recently.
Agriculture is at the forefront as the Nigerian government actively seeks to diversify away from reliance solely on oil as a source of income. Some of the challenges facing agriculture in Nigeria are lack of value addition and supply chain linkages.
Innovation in these challenging areas will allow farmers to get to market faster and give them the opportunity to scale up their businesses.
To help farmers adopt technology, partnerships are needed to simplify platforms and provide access to technology, especially for rural farmers.
To address these challenges, Microsoft, in partnership with the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture (NIRSAL) and multinationals operating in the country, organized an Agro Innovate Hackathon.
Microsoft and NIRSAL believe that within the Nigerian technology ecosystem lies the key to solving most of these challenges.
The goal is to create a portal solution where farmers and customers can connect to do business, access the internet, and where farmers can gain economic power and improve profitability.
The Hackathon will produce three winning local agritech startups that will be supported by Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office and NIRSAL, and the intention is to train 30,000 farmers to use the platform, enrolling 10,000 farmers on the platform the first year.
“The Agro Innovate Hackathon will provide livelihood opportunities in the agricultural sector and contribute to the government’s economic diversification agenda while simultaneously providing our brightest young Nigerian minds with the opportunity to launch start-up businesses that will be supported by Microsoft. This is an opportunity to make a platform widely accessible to farmers and bridge the gap between farmers and consumers,” says Dr. Usman Gambo Abdullahi, Director, IT Infrastructure Solutions, Agency National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Work in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
Microsoft also recently announced that it is extending its partnership with AGRA. The new phase of the relationship will foster digital innovation and technology as an enabler to connect agricultural ecosystems, sustainably integrating stakeholders serving strategic value chains.
“Our partnership with AGRA is part of Microsoft’s continued investment in agritech across the continent as we support digital transformation in the sector. We are excited to continue to develop locally relevant technology solutions that meet the needs of local farmers and deliver meaningful impact,” says Ola Williams, Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria.
Through this partnership, Microsoft and AGRA explored the use of big data and artificial intelligence to enable data-driven precision agriculture to support and increase farm productivity and profitability.
“At AGRA, we realized early on that digital innovation was key to advancing food security and poverty eradication in Africa. Our partnership with Microsoft will directly support governments, SMEs and farmers, bringing the digital tools needed to build resilient food systems,” said John Macharia, Senior Program Manager, AGRA Kenya.
“Microsoft is committed to continuous investment in agritech on the continent, with the goal of developing an agritech that enables data-driven, accurate and connected agriculture that optimizes yields, boosts agricultural productivity and increases profitability. . We understand that these important issues will not be solved by one company alone, but through partnerships with the private sector and our government partners for maximum impact and benefits for African farmers,” concludes Williams.