Approximately 65% of Africa’s workforce is involved in agriculture and the sector makes up 32% of the continent’s GDP, so there is a good reason to be optimistic about the future. So said Michael Hailu, director of CTA (Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation), at the ICT4Ag Conference being held in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Conference has been organised to explore the possibilities that ICT can provide in agriculture and to develop new solutions that can improve the day-to-day operations of Africa’s millions of farmers. “Governments are increasing ICT investments in agriculture, and it must be transformed into a sustainable business while making the markets more efficient,” he said during the official opening of the event.
“This conference has been design to be highly interactive so that delegates can connect with stakeholders, explore cutting-edge research and forge partnerships that will drive ICT in agriculture,” he said.
Hailu also praised the Plug & Play session that took place on Monday, where innovators showcased various ICT solutions, some of which were developed by startups, that could help solve agricultural problems.
“We have more than 400 delegates – which include policy makers and telecoms operators from over 60 countries here with us. I don’t want the conference to become a talk show, so I encourage people to actively make contact with others who will be able to help with ideas and work on solutions,” he said. An example of innovation was given through m-Farm, an app developed by an all-female team under the age of 30 from Kenya.
Michael Ryan, the European Union ambassador to Rwanda, expressed his delight in being associated with the development in ICT throughout Rwanda. “I’m very proud to attach the use of the EU name to some of these projects that are coming out of Rwanda. The EU has been a long partner in Rwanda and will do so for many years, and integrating ICT into communities are essential to reach goals.”
Ryan highlighted some of the strides that are being made in the field, such as applications where farmers can learn about the correct sowing times and prices for their crops.
“We are reaching more people with ICT and mobile connections, and adoption of ICT presents a substantial change for farmers. It allows them to have direct access to commodity prices and be more efficient. ICT literature has become a huge advantage, and it is vital that we increase our efforts to spread the use of ITC throughout the continent.”
Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, CEO of Rwanda Development Board, added that the time is now for ICT to drive agriculture, but a lot needs to happen. “There is no better way to improve ICT than through a conference such as ICT4Ag. Agriculture will remain the biggest employer in Africa, so through a conference like this we can really improve the sector and improve lives.”
“But we have to move from primary agriculture to value-added agriculture. We need to increase productivity, but also need to improve the efficiency – which are closely linked. I’m here to listen to the number of applications that are being developed here. There are a number of applications today that shifts agriculture into a new world.”
She added that Rwanda would like to create more jobs in agriculture, and ICT can help with that. “We would also like to create more than 200 000 jobs, but can’t be done without ICT in agriculture. The investment opportunities in agriculture go far beyond the boundaries of Rwanda. I’m really looking forward to see the changes and learning from delegates on what we can get from other countries that can help the continent.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor