21 Apr Policy Brief 01/2021 – Adopting Digital Technologies in Africa’s Agricultural Sector
22 April 2021 – The importance of digital technologies to agriculture is gaining increasing scholarly and policy attention across the globe. The OECD refers to digital agriculture as the use of information communication technologies (ICT) including the internet, mobile technologies and devices as well as data analytics to digitally generate, collect, store, analyze, share and present digital content (OECD,2014a).
Agricultural transformation is an urgent priority in Africa, but so far has been difcult to achieve. In this policy brief, we discuss the potential of digital technology in improving development outcomes in Africa’s agricultural sector. We also discuss the risks of the adoption of digital tools in exacerbating existing socio- economic and regional inequalities and the penalty for digital exclusion such as gender inequality and youth unemployment. The policy brief suggests technologies and policy directives that could be implemented to address the threats such as food insecurity and climate change using digitisation.
Drawing on some of the general principles of structural transformation, we offer policy recommendations to facilitate a more nuanced approach to identifying steps to enable successful uptake of digital technologies in order to benet the agricultural sector. These policy recommendations are (i) More collaboration between government and the private sector (ii) Improved regulatory environment (iii) Increase in skills and human development (iv) Increase in research and development (v) improved budget allocations by the government (vi) increased infrastructure provision in rural areas.
This comes against a backdrop of many African countries facing a potential increase in both food insecurity and unemployment. While we are cautious about the hype around the 4IR and digital technology uptakes, governments must create enabling environments with improvements in internet, mobile phone and electricity infrastructure to be economically and socially transformative and avoid the potential threats of ‘technological unemployment’. Thousands of villages still lack access to the internet because many are yet to be connected to the electricity grids. Lastly, the policy brief looks at the Kenyan case study as a model for best practice in achieving agrarian gains. Emphasis is put on the need to implement tailor made solutions to t local contexts and circumstances.