E-agriculture and using ICTs for communicating development

Welcome back to Part IV of our look at how in terms of development, ICTs have been transforming Africa! So far, we have looked at both the educational and medical sectors. And how they are undergoing dramatic development thanks to the proliferation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). We’ve also looked at how this transformation has proven lucrative and exploitation is being combated.

But in terms of significance and in terms of what is one of Africa’s biggest development challenges to overcome. Nothing compares to that of the alleviation of poverty across the continent. So how, using ICT’s is this possible and how, given the size, can it work efficiently? One suggestion is agripreneurship. Meaning the combination of agriculture and entrepreneurship.

The Youth Market

In January 2018, the FAO realised a report titled The role of ICTs in sustaining capacity development of African youths in agriculture. The discussion paper found in terms of development the youth market was key to this issue of growth specifically with agripreneurship in mind. The report split its findings into four areas of development:

  • Support networking
  • Platforms for learning
  • Access to information
  • Access to innovations

With this in mind, many projects have now begun including the Youth empowerment for agripreneurship in West Africa project. Built on the idea of mentoring processes being able to empower youths, the project is built on 3 pillars. That being 1) Putting research into use, 2) Strengthening Research-Private sector partnerships, and 3) Creating an enabling environment for agricultural entrepreneurship. Essential to this of course is the strategic application of ICTs.

Mobile technology

In regards to the use of mobile technology in the developmental process, one example of this is the GSMA’s mAgri Programme, which aims to identify and fund opportunities for mobile communications in the agricultural value chain. As mobile phones and tablets become widely available it is enabling growth both in economic terms but also more importantly in closing critical knowledge gaps. By using this technology mAgri is in a unique position to closing these gaps in developing rural areas. According to their statement of purpose they are able to deliver critical “information farmers need to make better informed decisions that boost their productivity and profit,” and give smallholder farmers to access formal financial services thus increasing availability of employment in these typically poorer areas.

Another established example of the strategic application of ICTs in developing agriculture is the Esoko Ghana Commodity Index (EGCI). Set up in 2005 as a rural platform EGCI publishes “a cash market price index composed of data on physical commodities.” Published weekly, the index tracks wholesale and retail prices and aims to improve farmers’ incomes by building healthy markets. Currently Esoko is active in ten countries in Africa and has a variety of partnership agreements.

But whether ICTs, as a potential tool for increased traceability of livestock, or intensified utilisation for increased irrigation efficiency the multiple ways in which they are changing the landscape of African Agriculture is becoming increasingly significant. Food security in developing areas of Africa is paramount for the survival of individuals, families, and ultimately nations, and the role that ICTs can play in addressing these challenges is increasing as mobile technologies become more assessable.