Technology helping East Africa unlock agriculture potential
Information technology is being utilised more than ever to improve agriculture in East Africa.
The sector is responsible for 83.9% of imports and 80% of total employment in Ethiopia alone. Technology-led transformation promotes good business practise and encourages farmers to work collaboratively.
On a larger scale, aerial images from satellites, weather forecasts and soil sensors are making it easier to manage crop growth in real time.
Successful ventures have the potential to open up huge markets and are attracting investors from around the globe.
According to African Tech Start-ups Funding Report 2017, agri-tech start-ups across the continent raised a combined total of US$13.2 million last year. Not a huge amount, but certainly an increase on the US$50,000 raised in 2015. It is a sector that has suddenly, and quite dramatically, sprung up.
Adding efficiency to the supply chain is only possible when farmers work as a large team and not small groups. In order to bring these people together the right information needs to be shared openly and on a consistent basis. Companies such as Kenya’s HSBS are developing apps available to access via the internet, smart phones or a simple SMS. These include real-time growing news, historical data, payment solutions, HR solutions and even marketing.
“Farming has changed drastically in the 21st Century,” said Scott Vaver, CEO of HSBS. “For agriculture to improve in East Africa we need to promote good business skills and make use of the IT channels available. This will help the region grow and become more tech-savvy.”
Educating university students on good agri-business is well underway. A number of programmes are in place focused on removing the negative stigma attached to agriculture. Africa’s GDP is dominated by farming so teaching the right expertise now will add huge value. Job opportunities are available in marketing, logistics, administration and management. Giving young farmers an option to purchase and sell through a cooperative is an incentive and promotes social change.
For East Africa to develop, it needs to focus on improving agri-business through technology and not simply subsistence. Planning for the future is the only way to encourage growth, eradicate food wastage, improve poor sales and simplify haphazard supply chains. Just like in banking, where mobile technologies have become essential, agriculture must follow suit.
Entrepreneurs across East Africa are seeing the potential in developing new IT systems. Wanda Organic is a Kenyan start-up providing bio-fertilizers to small and medium-sized farmers. Clients can order products by sending a simple SMS with their phone. The company works with commercial businesses to improve efficiency while ensuring value for stakeholders at the same time. The results are evident.
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