Africa’s agriculture sector is still lagging behind when it comes to utilizing information technology skills and digital literacy, according to a report released Tuesday in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali.
The report said Africa should address these gaps, especially among farmers, agricultural extension agents and e-agriculture entrepreneurs.
“If not addressed, these could limit the region’s efforts to contributing to or leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the expense of the agriculture sector,” it warned.
The report’s launch came as African ministers and development partners gathered in Kigali for the Malabo Montpellier Forum, where they discussed strategies for scaling up digitalization of African agriculture.
The meeting is being held under the theme: ‘Smart Value Chains: Policy Innovations for Transforming Africa’s Food System.’
Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, said digitalization done smartly and at a scale offers the opportunity for African countries to overcome the many infrastructural, institutional and technological obstacles that have hampered growth and transformation of the agricultural and rural economy.
“Digital technologies can be deployed to upgrade skills, deliver services and connect businesses to reach a critical mass of operators across widely dispersed geographic areas in a much shorter time and at lower cost,” said Badiane.
The report outlines benefits of digitalization, from providing access to information and other services including finance to improving links to markets.
It cited various technologies needed including blockchain, big data, robotics and the Internet of Things, as well as more low-tech, frugal innovations.
It also urged governments to put digitalization at the core of national agricultural development policies.