Microsoft is working with government and private sector partners to innovate ways to farm precisely for more yield, productivity, and profitability. In Africa, agriculture sustains 70% of livelihoods and households. Thus, the agriculture sector needs more cost-effective innovative ways to produce more products in the same time frame while also employing the same tools or more advanced ones. This partnership with the Nigerian government and individuals will enable data-driven, and ensure precision and connected farming that optimizes yields and boosts farm productivity and profitability.
Microsoft Nigeria Country Manager Ola Williams, took this position during the virtual roundtable panel discussion, which the software company hosted to talk about digital transformation in agriculture for food security in Africa. Lately, Africa and by extension, the rest of the world have seen increased in the price of goods especially foodstuffs. With this comes food insecurity. The discussion is aimed at devising new ways that farmers in Nigeria and Africa can solve this problem using technology.
Africa’s agriculture sector set for exponential growth in the decade.
The panel discussion involved partners from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). Microsoft spurned a discussion on models to be adopted, to be self-sufficient in food production. This is because even with agriculture sustaining majority of livelihoods and contributing significantly to the nation’s GDP, Nigeria still imports a lot of agricultural products. In the virtual roundtable discussion, Microsoft and the partners explored the ways in which Agritech is changing outcomes for farmers across Africa, unlocking more yields, and helping them accessing the latest information and expert advice on farming.
The agriculture sector in Africa is set for an exponential growth in the decade. It is projected to be valued at 1 trillion USD by 2030. There has also been a rise in the aspect of e-agriculture solutions. E-agriculture, or ICTs in agriculture, refers to designing, developing and applying innovative ways to use ICTs with a primary focus on agriculture. It offers a wide range of solutions to agricultural challenges and has great potential in promoting sustainable agriculture while protecting the environment. Agriculture contributed 22.35% of Nigeria’s GDP in 2021, with 70% of Nigerians engaging in agriculture, though largely at the subsistence level.
Agritech changes the face of agriculture through democratizing information.
Now that the Federal Government of Nigeria seeks to diversify the economy and move away the major source of revenue for the nation from crude oil, Microsoft says that it has become imperative to find ways to make farming more profitable and economically viable so that more entrepreneurs will be encouraged to see farming as a sustainable means of livelihood. Microsoft’s Nigeria Country Manager Ola Williams, says that the way that Agritech changes the face of information is through democratizing information. In other words, information must be readily made available not only to the privileged but also to the masses.
“Agriculture is the main driver of employment in Nigeria; however, the sector has seen reduced focus post oil era until recently. Agriculture is coming to the front burner as the Nigerian government is actively seeking to diversify and drive towards moving away from solely depending on oil as source of revenue. Some of the challenges agriculture faces in Nigeria is the absence of value addition and supply chain linkages,” William said. “Innovating in these areas of challenges will empower farmers to gain faster access to the market and provide them with an opportunity to grow their businesses at scale. To help farmers adopt technology, partnerships are needed to simplify platforms and provide access to technology, particularly for rural farmers.”
Microsoft, NITDA, and multi-national companies hosting a hackathon.
Microsoft in partnership with NITDA and multinational companies operating in Nigeria is hosting an Agro Innovate Hackathon. The director of Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions at NITDA, Dr Usman Gambo Abdullahi says this hackathon is to meet the challenges in the agriculture sector. “We believe that within the Nigeria tech ecosystem lies the solution to solve most of these challenges,” he says. The aim is to create a portal solution where farmers and customers can connect to conduct business, and where farmers can gain economic power and improve their profitability. The hackathon will produce three winning local Agritech startups who will be nurtured through Microsoft’s Africa Transformation Office and NITDA, and the intention is to train 30,000 farmers on the use of the platform, enrolling 10,000 farmers on the platform in the first year.
UN FAO: Website