It has emerged that Africa’s agricultural sector is set for exponential growth in the coming decade, becoming the global hub for agricultural technology.
This is according to a research commissioned by Microsoft and compiled by Africa Practice. With a projected value of one trillion dollars by 2030, the continent is poised to become the global centre of agritech solutions.
The study further revealed that the continent has also seen rapid growth in e-agriculture solutions.
With agriculture sustaining 70 per cent of Africa’s livelihoods, Microsoft believes that developing agritech solutions to enable data-driven, precise and connected farming will help farmers across Africa optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase their profitability.
Between 2016 and 2019, the agritech sector grew by 44 per cent year-on-year, and the continent has registered the highest number of agritech services in the developing world, reaching over 33 million smallholder farmers to date.
Agriculture already accounts for 14 per cent of GDP in Africa, and for 52 per cent of the continent’s workforce. It’s expected that as the continent’s middle class rapidly grows, they will drive increased demand for fresh produce.
The study further says that the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) could boost intra-African trade by 49 per cent. Through increased investments in inputs, storage facilities and irrigation infrastructure, Africa is expected to increase its agricultural output by up to three times by 2030.
It further revealed that smallholder farmers account for 80 per cent of the farming community, and it’s predicted that up to 200 million smallholders will be registered for agritech solutions by 2030.
Mobile connectivity is predicted to reach over 55 per cent by 2030, compared with 45 per cent currently, meaning that over 85 per cent of smallholder farmers could have access to feature or smartphones and mobile solutions. This, according to the study, is critical, as many smallholder farmers live in remote areas, are hard to reach and lack purchasing power on their own.
To this end, Microsoft, through its 4Afrika initiative, is committed to ensuring that all farming communities are equipped with the latest tools like AI, IoT and edge computing to improve productivity and sustainability across the sector.
The Regional Director of Microsoft 4Afrika, Amrote Abdella, believes “technology has the potential to change the face of farming, using smart tools and platforms for precision farming, predicting weather patterns, maximising the use of scarce water resources.”
“By harnessing agri-tech, we can help solve the pressing issues around food security to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 of Zero Hunger, and enhance economic development in the process. We’re excited to work with our partners in building locally-relevant technology solutions that are mindful of the challenges local farmers face, offering solutions to farmers to deliver meaningful impact,” she said.
According to Richard Kiplagat, Group Director and MD of East Africa for Africa Practice, “the opportunity for the sector to address some of the continent’s most pressing challenges – including food security, income inequality and livelihoods for our fast growing and youthful population – is immense.”
“The big question is how to catalyze this momentum especially given the urgent need for a rapid post-Covid recovery. Our findings clearly show that agritech holds great promise as an effective tool to improve productivity, decision-making and access to markets. Africa Practice is excited about the results of the study and its potential to inform the growth of the agricultural sector on the continent,” he added.