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Microsoft targets food security in Africa with agric digital transformation

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• Partners NISRAL to train 30,000 regional farmers
American Technology Company, Microsoft, is working to ensure food security in Nigeria and other parts of Africa through the planned digital transformation of agriculture.

Microsoft, which announced this during a virtual roundtable panel discussion about digital transformation in agriculture for food security in Africa, yesterday, noted that with the sector sustaining up to 70 per cent of Africa’s livelihoods, it (Microsoft) is working with government and private partners to enable data-driven, precision and connected farming that optimizes yields and boosts farm productivity and profitability.

Microsoft Nigeria Country Manager, Ola Williams, led the conversation with partners from the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) and the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture (NIRSAL).

According to discussants, there is a need to explore the ways in which agritech is changing outcomes for farmers across the continent, unlocking productivity and helping farmers access the latest information and farming advice.

They noted that Africa’s agriculture sector is set for exponential growth in the coming decade, with a projected value of $1 trillion by 2030. The continent has also seen rapid growth in e-agriculture solutions and is poised to become the global centre of agritech solutions. In 2021, agriculture contributed 22.35 per cent of the total GDP of Nigeria, with over 70 per cent of Nigerians engaging in agriculture, largely at a subsistence level.

Discussants said one way in which agritech changes the face of agriculture is through democratising information.

According to them, agriculture is the main driver of employment in Nigeria; however, the sector has seen reduced focus post oil era until recently. They submitted that to help farmers adopt technology, partnerships are needed to simplify platforms and provide access to technology, particularly for rural farmers.

To meet these challenges, Microsoft, in partnership with the NIRSAL and multi-national companies operating in the country, hosted an Agro Innovate Hackathon.

Microsoft and NIRSAL believe that within the Nigerian tech ecosystem is the solution to solve most of these challenges. “The goal is to create a portal solution where farmers and customers can connect to conduct business, access the Internet, 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 NIRSAL, 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.”

Director, Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Usman Gambo Abdullahi, said the Agro Innovate Hackathon will provide livelihood opportunities in the agriculture sector and contribute to the government’s economic diversification agenda, while simultaneously offering our brightest young Nigerian minds the chance to launch start-up ventures that will be nurtured by Microsoft.

“This is an opportunity to make a platform widely accessible to farmers and bridge the gap between farmers and consumers,” he stressed.

MEANWHILE, working in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Microsoft also recently announced that it is extending its partnership with AGRA.

The new phase of the relationship will promote digital innovation and technology as an enabler to connect the agriculture ecosystems, sustainably integrating stakeholders in the service of strategic value chains.

“Our partnership with AGRA forms part of Microsoft’s ongoing investment in agritech across the continent as we support digital transformation in the sector. We’re excited to continue building locally relevant technology solutions that address the local farmers’ needs and deliver meaningful impact,” said Williams.

Through the partnership, Microsoft and AGRA have explored the use of big data and artificial intelligence in enabling data-driven, precision farming to support and increase farm productivity and profitability.