In Summary
  • As the global population inches closer to 10 billion, Africa is still food insecure and inefficient agricultural practices hold it back,
  • To improve production utility, the system will encourage value addition through manufacturing and distribution to retail centres as well as processing commodities for export. 
  • It will perhaps make farming more attractive to young people who, despite being jobless, have had no interest in becoming farmers as a strategy for wealth creation.

This past week, I was a panellist at the GSM Association (an organisation that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide) Conference in Dar el Salaam, Tanzania.

The main goal of the conference was to assess the state of the telecommunications industry, focusing on mobile as a platform for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.

In the past, such GSMA conferences focused on mobile connectivity in Africa. This is changing. Mobile has brought greater inclusivity, progress and development, and the association is now going beyond merely connecting people to basic communications.

Mobile is evolving into “a platform for creating, distributing and consuming innovative digital solutions and services,” according to the association.

Digitisation of virtually every sector is under way in many countries and in many sectors. I am particularly fascinated by agriculture because success in this sector has greater implications. 

As the global population inches closer to 10 billion, Africa is still food-insecure and inefficient agricultural practices hold it back, yet output must double to meet the growing demand.

To achieve this, Africa needs a holistic approach to agribusiness value chains.

The challenge ahead is not just food sufficiency. Consumers want high-quality food that they can trust, and much more sustainable production, yet according to IFAD, 500 million smallholder farmers in Asia and Africa produce up to 80 per cent of food.

To meet customer demands, therefore, focus must shift towards innovative production methods around smallholder farmers, use of data at all levels of the supply chain and building sustainable collaborations between farmers and other stakeholders along the supply chain.


One of the world’s leading technology providers, SAP, is leading the charge to leverage technology to collaborate with Africa’s smallholder farmers to improve productivity.

The company has developed a rural sourcing management solution that links farmers to the agricultural value chain.

This mobile business application will support inclusive agricultural chains; optimise farming in developing countries; enhance direct procurement and traceability; support multiple approaches to crop-trading and traceability; and advance the technology to cope with rural infrastructures running on Cloud Platform Mobile Services.

The agribusiness supply chain system (see figure 1 below) entails provision of inputs; agricultural production and farming; origination and trading; commodity processing; food manufacturing and processing; retail distribution; and consumer. 

The crops system starts with inputs of data-rich agronomic support including recommendations of crop production techniques, farm equipment where necessary, hybrid seed, relevant fertilizer and monitoring of inputs. 

In production and aggregation (perhaps the most challenging stage of smallholder farmers especially if they do not belong to any cooperative that aggregates produce) farmers will be assisted to sort and grade the production to maximise value. 

The third, origination and trading, which also happens to be one of the most wasteful stages, with farmers losing output due to lack of storage, the system will ensure that an efficient system is in place. 


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