We all agree that one of the most prominent czars in African agriculture is our very own Dr Akinwumi Adesina who is also the President of the African Development Bank. As the bank he leads was presenting its 2018 African Economic Outlook, he explained the catalytic potential of agriculture for industrializing Africa.
“Agriculture must be at the forefront of Africa’s industrialization,” he said, adding that integrated power and adequate transport infrastructure would facilitate economic integration, support agricultural value chain development and economies of scale which drive industrialization.
In a report by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), experts also noted that “agriculture will be Africa’s quiet revolution.”
. Currently part of this growing demand for Africa’s food is met by imports. These amount to $35bn yearly and are expected to cost $110bn by 2025 unless Africa improves the productivity and global competiveness of its agribusiness and agriculture sectors.
The report acknowledges that the private sector holds the key to the transformation of the food system so far.
“Impressive value addition and employment is being created by SMEs along value chains in the form of increased agricultural trade, farm servicing, agro processing, urban retailing and food services. Large agribusinesses like seed companies, agro processors and supermarkets are also playing an increasing role in the food value chain in many regions,” said Peter Hazell (IFPRI), the technical director of the report.
The opportunity is huge and it is going to create the largest cohorts of African millionaires in the next two decades. You want to hit it big, this is where it is going to happen. You do not need to buy land because there are smarter alternatives to play this game. Those options range from funding real farmers to investing in the agro-data business. The decades of 2020 and 2030 would be the era where Africa’s agriculture would be redesigned by African entrepreneurs. They would be rewarded, and massive wealth would be created.
As I noted in a Harvard Business Review piece, this one would be done by Africans, for Africa, because the structure of our agricultural systems is not things any outsider could model easily. Anyone that wants to participate must do it from inside, and that is within Africa. Glory awaits the dreamers.
Specifically for Nigeria, trajectory like this happens: in the 1990s, we had the banking boom. In 2000s, we had the telephony boom. In 2010s, we are having the broadband era. In 2020s, we are going to see convergence in one industry that matters where more than 65% of working Nigerians work: agriculture. Fintech, big data and IoT would see massive convergence, and that coming together would improve productivity in Nigerian agriculture. Even the nomadic herdsmen may be competitively challenged as some entrepreneurs right now are buying lands to pioneer a future for animal husbandry.
Some Areas, Beyond Farming
There are many ways to play this game; I am listing some from the pool I had documented in my book.
- Precision agriculture: deployment of IoT and cloud-based solutions to improve farm yield by helping farmers to make better decisions through precision agriculture. These sensors will provide weather data, soil data, animal health data, and crop health data in real-time. An example is Nigeria-based Zenvus (which I own) which provides deep insights on farms via sensors which capture data like temperature, moisture, humidity and other pertinent farm data.
- Agro fintech: creating financial solutions geared for the agriculture sector with the use of technology like apps, web apps, AI, blockchain, etc. These will include agro-lending, agro-insurance, agro-trading, etc. FarmDrive, a Kenyan enterprise, connects unbanked and underserved smallholder farmers to credit, while helping financial institutions cost-effectively increase their agricultural loan portfolios
- Farming ecommerce: expanding farmers’ markets by providing digital platforms for trade of farm produce. This will enable farmers, especially farmers involved in non-perishable crops, find markets outside of their immediate locations. Sokopepe uses SMS and web tools to offer market information and farm record management services to farmers.
Africa, go for big glory: cure extreme hunger.