Digital technology and African smallholder agriculture: Implications for public policy – Brookings Institution


COVID-19 has exacerbated problems to Africa’s meals and agriculture sector and to its hundreds of hundreds of smallholder farmers. On The identical time, the pandemic has accelperiodted revolutionary efforts to develop and deploy the transformative power of digital know-how To deal with these factors in Methods in which leapfrog previous practices and conventional options. Rising proof from Asia and Africa Means that digital know-how holds promise to dramatically enhance smallholder productiveness and incomes by growing on-farm and off-farm influenceivity, enhancing traceability, reducing vulnperiodbility to counterfeit merchandise, and enhancing farmers’ entry to output, enter, and monetary markets. The change is pushed by the introduction Of latest Sorts of intermediation and The gathering, use, and evaluation of huge portions of agriculture knowledge to disrupt current enterprise fashions. New strategic halfnerships between The private and non-private sectors are An integral half for reaping the constructive influences of digital know-how and avoiding unintfinished and unwelcome secondary influences.

Digital know-how as a transformational strain to drive scale

Digital know-how is transforming the agricultural sector by way of The equipment of revolutionary devices and new enterprise fashions. For The primary time, Many people Inside The worth chain, collectively with smallholder farmers, have entry to exact-time knowledge and computational power making potential Simpler selection and timing of product-to-market selections, provision of credit rating, and entry to micro-insurance covperiodge.

Digitized agriculture knowledge May even be creating community influences to drive scale. Coupled with the growing embrace of the sharing financial system, digitization and synthetic intelligence make potential new enterprise fashions and e-commerce platforms that join farmers immediately with markets, service suppliers, and aggregators, thereby shortening The worth chain and growing the profitability of smallholder farming. The sharing financial system has additionally made it potential for smallholder farmers to effectively entry mechanized devices To reinstrain their crop yields.

Importantly, The advantages Transcfinish enhanced yields: Provided that digital know-how holds particular attraction for youthful staff, integrating it into agriculture by way of entry factors like precision farming, gear leasing, service provision, and e-commerce can tackle The primary problem of attracting job-looking for and entrepreneurial youth. Provided that 70 % of sub-Saharan Africa’s inhabitants is beneath 30 years of age, nothe place is the job creation problem extra acute.

Already, Asia has moved forward shortly on Using digital improvements in smallholder agriculture. Africa is demonstrating it hAs a Outcome of the potential to do The identical. Digital utilized sciences can current The subsequent potential advantages in agriculture:

  1. Empower smallholder farmers to leapfrog and harness new enterprise fashions Similar to a Outcome of the sharing financial system (e.g., HelloTractor, a Nigerian agricultural know-how (AgTech) agency That currents a farm gear sharing software Simply like Uber) or the quick-paced progress of e-commerce such as Pinduoduo in China (Definitely one of many hugest e-commerce platforms for agriculture) that has grown to 800 million clients in six years.
  2. Derive worth from agriculture knowledge and create the community influence to drive scale. A great event is Twiga in Kenya, a enterprise-to-enterprise, mobile-based mostly, e-commerce market platform that delivers meals produce to the mass market by digitizing The current chain, slicing out layers of centermen, eliminating meals waste, and reducing meals prices.
  3. Obtain influenceivity and scale again transaction prices by way of the digitalization Of numerous processes to create transparency. Tanihub Group, Definitely one of many hugest AgTech corporations in Indonesia that joins farmers to consumers by reshifting the centermen As properly as to offering financing to smallholder farmers is one event.
  4. Democratize entry to market intelligence to create an constructed-in mobile platform of digital providers for farmers. DigiFarm, powered by Safaricom in Kenya and which has expanded to Tanzania, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, and Myanmar, provides farmers one-cease entry To diminish-priced farm enters, loans, studying content material on farming, As properly as to entry to markets.
  5. Create jobs for The mannequin new period of tech-savvy farmers driving on-farm and off-farm alternatives such as Million Farmers in Kenya and Millennial Farmers in Indonesia. These packages are designed by the ministries of agriculture Inside their respective nations to encourage the know-how-savvy youth To Wind up to be farmers.

Implications for public covperiodge

One Method To know The tactic of productiveness enhancement is as three interlocking gears: innovation, supply platforms for items and providers, and the intermediation that Leads to shifting particular improvements into wider use (Decide 1).

Decide 1. Prioritizing “intermediation”—the damaged An factor of the innovation worth chain

Supply: Authors’ illustration.

Evidence Means that In all probability the most vexing factors limiting smallholder agriculture in Africa—and thus The Most very important alternatives for dramatic breakby way ofs—concern this center gear, intermediation, which truly consists of Pretty A pair Of numerous, very important features (Decide 2).

Decide 2. Functions of intermediation Inside the innovation worth chain

Supply: Authors’ illustration.

Right here, particularly, digital know-how can play An important position, however obstacles persist. Certainly, in distinction to completely different know-how-based mostly markets the place these intermediation features are carried out by enterprise capitaitemizings and equity buyers, the monetary incentives to intermediation in smallholder agriculture have So far conagencyed elusive in Africa.

On The identical time, the placeas public covperiodge has An important position to play in altering the incentives for transformational intermediation, Definitely one of many risks of enhancing the incentives for intermediation by way of subsidies and licensing agreements is the creation of, or acquiescence to, monopolies and monopsonies with the potential To Focus power in strategies That are politically unacceptable or probably detrimental to the pursuits of the smallholders. There are, however, emerging circumstances Of the method To deal with these factors by way of A combination of regulatory actions and stimulating enhanced rivals from A mannequin new period of innovators.

As properly as, the placeas digital know-how can current vital advantages in agriculture, It might probably deepen the digital divide by excluding Individuals who Do not have entry to joinivity or Cell telephones. Subsequently, It is important to design multistakeholder halfnerships between authorities, academia, and the private sector to assist smallholder farmers throughout The complete agriculture worth chain.

The pandemic has raised the urgency of meals safety for Africa. Concurrently, There wAs a Outcome of the in a single day shift in the direction of on-line digital providers such as e-commerce, digital cost, and contactless expertise Through the COVID-19 lockdown. With the readiness of know-how, we might accelperiodte the adoption of know-how To enhance the productiveness, influenceivity, and resilience of agricultural worth chains and meals methods throughout the African continent.


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