FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO brings young agriculture entrepreneurs together to forge Africa’s digital future

Putting African youth at the forefront of digital agriculture to tackle COVID-19 and beyond


3 June 2020, Accra - The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many people to digital platforms in Africa. People are buying, trading and transporting goods and services through digital channels across the continent. FAO, in collaboration with Generation Africa, brought over 200 young agribusiness innovators and other agri-food systems actors together in a webinar to discuss the status of digital solutions in the sector. This movement, spearheaded by young entrepreneurs,  including those interested in agriculture or ‘agripreneurs’, has the potential to support efforts of many farmers and transform agri-food systems during the current crisis, but also in a post-coronavirus Africa.

“COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees but it is also catalyzing change in Africa and opportunities are emerging in different areas, such as accelerated digital transformation, particularly in agriculture,” said Ade Freeman, FAO Regional Programme Leader for Africa.

Dejan Jakovljevic, FAO Deputy Director for IT, highlighted in the introductory presentation FAO’s efforts in providing data, promoting innovation and engaging young people in the digital space as a contribution to FAO’s vision of ending hunger and poverty. FAO is currently engaging different partners on initiating a network of SmartAgriHubs for Africa, which will serve as innovation centres for advancing the digital agriculture agenda in Africa, with youth at the forefront.

The agriculture sector employs over 60 percent of the African population, yet the continent also still imports over 40 billion USD in food annually. Edson Mpyisi, Africa Development Bank’s Chief Financial Economist and Coordinator of the Enable Youth Programme told participants that COVID-19 and the technological acceleration it has set in motion could revolutionise all levels of the agricultural value chain in Africa and propel agribusiness to make Africa self-reliant.

Africa is full of ideas and platforms that will transform the face of agriculture on the continent. UjuziKilimo, a platform in Kenya, digitizes farming records and data to analyse and advise rural farmers on the inputs to use, when and how to plant. The platform eliminates the need for mandatory field visits, as data on soil quality, planting schedules and other vital information can be collected and shared digitally. “We believe that the technological gap between urban and rural areas can be bridged. Farmers must not only use technology but should also be part of building them,” noted Brian Bosire, young Founder and CEO of the company.

Foodlocker is a Nigerian platform giving smallholders direct market access, a benefit even more valuable in a time of social distancing and market shutdowns. They can sell directly to consumers on the platform, and the company goes further to provide smallholders with production advice. Jennifer Okoduwa, co-founder of Foodlocker, highlighted that the platform collects and aggregates demand and production data, which is used to advise smallholders on what and how much to produce and required product standards. Interactions with smallholders are maintained through SMS, a simple technology easily adopted by rural farmers.

Participants heard that to keep pace with the rapid innovation in the digital agriculture space, African governments must put in place the requisite regulations and infrastructure needed. Two major challenges faced by agripreneurs are connectivity and logistics. Governments must accelerate the reach of critical connectivity infrastructure to rural areas for access to resources and data, and to improve digital literacy. They must also ensure the ease of movement of inputs, goods and produce, locally and inter-regionally, especially in this time of COVID-19.

The advent of technology-driven agriculture does not only make it more efficient and profitable for smallholders, but it also expands attraction to the sector. Rebecca Enonchong, Board Chairperson of Afrilabs, believes that technology not only opens up markets but also makes it cool, hence attracting Africa’s talented youth.

Dickson Naftali, Head of Generation Africa, concluded that value chain actors must be incentivised to play their role, emphasising the need for a business case as digital solutions are brought into play.

FAO with partners will continue to support smallholder farmers and agripreneurs to ensure the uptake of technological solutions for improved food security and livelihoods.

To learn more about the solutions and innovations presented in the webinar, watch the video.