Get Africa connected – The important role of technology in rural farming

Get Africa connected – The important role of technology in rural farming

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To empower rural farmers and lift them out of poverty, a solid financial framework is vital to ensure access to basic on-demand knowledge on food production. Therefore, a strong commitment during the upcoming Finance for Development summit in Addis in July is needed to secure investments in infrastructure and capacity building.

Access to technology plays a vital role within the agricultural sector in Africa, and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) on rural farms is no longer an exception. Within the last decade, the number of mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa has steadily increased, transforming the way farmers are cultivating their fields and selling their products.

Even though the overall mobile penetration in the region is still low at 38%, compared to those in other regions in the world such as Latin America (52.6%) and Europe (79.3%), there is no other region that has seen such a tremendous increase in new subscribers over the past few years. When taking a closer look at country level, one can identify markets with exceptional mobile penetration rates that equal with those of developed countries.

Source: GSMA Intelligence.

Source: GSMA Intelligence. 2014: The Mobile Economy – Sub Saharan Africa 2014, p8

A recently published report by the Pew Research Center shows that there are almost as many mobile phones in Ghana or Kenya as there are in the United States of America. Accordingly, Sub-Saharan Africa is emerging as one of the fastest growing markets for mobile applications in the world. The PEW Research Center predicts that by 2020 the mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa shall reach 50%, putting over 500 million people online.

As a result, more farmers will have access to a vast amount of helpful mobile applications connecting subscribers in a virtual space and share information such as market prices, food production, and best practices, simply and effectively.

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Credit: Pew Research Center Note: US data from Pew Research Center surveys Source: Spring 2014 Global Attitudes survey. Q68

ICTs are essential for farmers and their food production, as agriculture remains the backbone of the vast majority of economies in the region and the livelihood of the rural population (accounting for up to two thirds of Sub-Saharan Africa’s total population). Therefore, sufficient and continuous investment is needed to empower rural farmers and provide them with reliable infrastructure such as proper network coverage, in order to get them connected.

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The recently published eLearning Africa Report 2015 reveals that 90% of farmers confirm that ICTs improve food security and sustainability in their region. But at the same time 60% do not have sufficient access to ICTs, and therefore cannot take advantage of its positive impacts on agriculture and food production. The report also identifies the main obstacles farmers are facing to access ICTs: Poor coverage and energy supply are the main barriers, which inhibit consistent use of information and communication technologies in the agricultural sector, followed by the high cost of equipment and insufficient infrastructure.

To tackle these barriers effectively, more investment has to be allocated towards infrastructure and capacity building in the developing countries concerned. The development of the ICT sector through investments in the mobile sectors has to play a vital role at the upcoming Financing for Development summit (FFD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this July. Now it is time to take the next step and agree on a comprehensive financial framework to finance development and empower the poorest.

Let’s send a clear signal to the leaders at the FFD in July to support rural farmers with scaling up investments and help building infrastructure. Join the fight to end extreme poverty and show the world that every single life matters!

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