Microsoft 4Afrika will support a digital transformation in Africa’s agri-food sector, increasing farm yields and farmers incomes
Kampala, Uganda | Ronald Musoke | Ugandan smallholder farmers will benefit from Microsoft’s new programme that seeks to avail digital tools and training resources to small-scale farmers and agriculture-linked small businesses in Uganda, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Kenya.
The programme which is being run in a partnership between Microsoft’s 4Africa scheme and the IFC—a member of the World Bank Group— was launched in Nairobi on Aug.03 and is aimed at supporting digital transformation in Africa’s agribusiness sector. It also seeks to modernize supply chains as well as boost farmers’ productivity and incomes.
The initiative which will be targeting at least 50,000 farmers and 50 cooperatives in the four countries is informed by the fact that digital technology has the potential to improve the operation of key supply chains in the food system through nurturing better agricultural efficiencies and business practices, traceability, food safety and, access to finance.
But, the use of digital tools in Africa’s agriculture sector remains limited, often because of infrastructure, affordability, awareness, and regulatory issues. Research shows that agribusiness contributes just about 25% of Africa’s GDP and 70% of its employment.
“Microsoft 4Afrika’s strategy is to invest in agri-tech to unlock Africa’s vibrant potential, accelerating innovation in agri-tech to enable data-driven farming that can optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase profitability – all the while feeding a nation,” said Kendi Nderitu, Country Manager for Microsoft Kenya.
“Now more than ever, we need to pay close attention to how agri-tech organisations transform digitally, what challenges they face acquiring new technologies, and the daily challenges they may be facing in the area of digital skills development.”
The partnership will leverage Microsoft 4Afrika’s unique digital platforms and IFC’s Agribusiness Leadership Programme to help small-scale farmers, their cooperatives, and “last mile retailers” access information and digital tools to strengthen farming practices, build business professionalism and improve food security and traceability throughout the supply chain.
The partnership will deploy Microsoft’s KuzaBot mobile chat platform to speed-up and ease the dissemination of vital information to farmers on good agricultural and business practices.
The IFC’s Agribusiness Leadership Programme will also be uploaded on the Microsoft Community Training platform to help small businesses, aggregators, and farmer cooperatives improve their professionalism, productivity, and creditworthiness.
Over the long term, the partnership aims to deepen the understanding of factors that drive the adoption and use of digital solutions among smallholder farmers, farmer cooperatives, and other actors in the agriculture supply chain.
Samuel Dzotefe, IFC’s acting Regional Industry Director, Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services for Middle East and Africa noted that digital technologies have the power to transform small-scale farming in Africa.
“By making digital tools more accessible to farmers, cooperatives and last-mile retailers, Microsoft and IFC can together help the agribusiness sector to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the digital economy,” he said.
Microsoft’s partnership with IFC comes in the wake of growing food insecurity reports around the world. According to the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises, close to 155 million people are faced acute food insecurity last year across 55 countries and territories—an increase of around 20 million people from 2019.
Of the 10 countries with the highest number of people facing food insecurity, six were in Africa, the report noted.