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Remarks by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group at TICAD7 - Digital Africa 2030 and Japanese Investment. Harnessing Digital Technologies for Agriculture in Africa - Tokyo, 28 August, 2019
What an incredible gathering this is! I am delighted to be at this joint event between the African Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation. It is another excellent opportunity and platform to share experiences on developments in Africa and how we can better partner together!
Japan and Africa share an unbreakable bond. A shared relationship built on the basis of friendly cooperation, mutual respect, and common interests. These are ideals for ensuring successful collaboration.
Africa represents a massive business opportunity. Six of the world’s twelve fastest-growing countries are in Africa. With a population of over 1 billion people, consumer spending in Africa is projected to rise from $680 billion in 2008 to $2.2 trillion by 2030. The continent will have the fastest growing youth population in the world by 2030. The size of the African Continental Free Trade Areas is worth $3.3 trillion – the largest free trade zone is since the World Trade Organizations was established. Africa is a huge market. It can no longer be ignored!
Significantly, the African continent far outpaces every other region in the world when it comes to the uptake of mobile phones and internet connectivity. Of all the world’s continents, Africa has been the fastest growing mobile market for the past five years, with more than 200 million mobile users. It also has recorded the highest internet growth, from just 2.1% in 2005, to over 24% in 2018. By 2025 an estimated 300 million people will come online in Africa. Five years later, by 2030, Africa will have 16% of the world’s internet users, a growth of over 260% from 2017.
This growth is dramatic. But Africa is not stopping there. The continent is building on this growth of mobile telephony to launch a new wave of dynamic and more competitive digitally enabled businesses. The number of tech hubs – physical spaces designed to foster and support tech startups – has grown dramatically to 442, with the largest concentrations in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and Ghana. These centers provide space for entrepreneurs from all sectors to innovate and integrate digital solutions into traditional sectors.
The Bank’s recent study titled “Unlocking the Potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa,” shows an unprecedented growth in the number of tech start-up entrepreneurs. Today, we have 6,500 technology start-ups on the continent. And investors are taking note. These start-ups have received about $2.27 billion in venture capital investments. What an incredible development!
A key driver behind this digital revolution is Africa’s youth. They are ambitious and enterprising, as well as restless and impatient for change. These qualities are perfect to take on the information and computer technology challenge. Africa’s young people are the most avid adopters of ICTs and digital solutions. About 60% of Africa’s population is below 25 and they are eager to go online, learn, innovate and consume all things digital. The near future will be very different from today, in terms of innovation, enterprise, and job and wealth creation. Indeed, we are facing a brave new world of new types of jobs and opportunities looming on the horizon, beyond what we cannot even imagine. We need to prepare for this future!
One area that is ripe for a radical transformation is how to use this digital revolution to unlock the vast potential in the continent’s agricultural value chains. Agriculture remains the engine for economic growth in Africa and supports the livelihoods of more than 60% of the continent’s population. It also provides employment for over 40% of economically active Africans. Across the world, the future of food is being defined by new technologies that are changing the way food is produced, processed, and distributed.
The structure of agriculture and the competitiveness of the African agricultural sector is also being shaken to the core by pioneering digital financial and information solutions. A well-known example is M-pesa, developed by Safaricom, a Kenyan telecommunications company. M-Pesa provides mobile money, mobile banking, payment platforms and financial inclusion solutions for 30 million Africans across 10 countries. Other exciting examples include AgroCenta in Ghana which is helping smallholder farmers access markets and finance through mobile apps. Hello Tractor in Nigeria, an uber-like service, enables farmers to hire tractor services at affordable rates, while providing enhanced security to tractor owners through remote asset tracking and virtual monitoring.
In partnership with the Busan Techno Park in South Korea and the Tunisian government, the Bank is piloting the use of drones for improving overall agricultural productivity and performance.
The digitalization of African agriculture is a unique development opportunity and a clear game changer. Digital technologies have started to transform the lives of smallholder farmers, offering them real-time access to market information and hassle-free direct access to subsidized inputs. For instance, the e-wallet system that dramatically helped transform Nigeria’s agriculture, now offers smallholder African farmers with an opportunity to bypass public institutions and access agricultural inputs directly from the private sector on their mobile phones.
Recognizing that the future of agriculture is data-enabled, the African Development Bank will focus on improving access to and enabling the flow of data and information across all segments of the agricultural value chain. That’s why the Bank launched the Digital Solutions for African Agriculture program, which supports the public and private sector to introduce and scale-up transformative digital solutions. This includes super platforms for e-registries, e-extension, soil information maps, e-commerce and digital marketplaces for agri-inputs and outputs, tracking and traceability systems, and e-Agri-governance.
The Bank is supporting Senegal with a €70 million investment in a technology park that is attracting companies, investors and entrepreneurs into West Africa. The Bank has also invested in a farmer registration and agro-inputs marketplace project in Liberia; and a payments platform for agro-inputs in Togo.
More importantly, human capital is key to this transformation. The Bank has invested in the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), in Rwanda to ensure that Africa offers world-class training in ICT. We are also rolling out Coding Centers for Excellence in several African countries, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Safaricom. Starting in 2019, this includes Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya, with plans to scale these throughout Africa over the next five years.
Going forward, the Bank seeks to join forces with development partners such as the International Finance Corporation to support governments and promote businesses that are willing to capitalize on the economic potential and positive development impact that a digital Africa offers. To harness the 4th industrial revolution for the future of food in Africa, strong Public-Private Partnerships are required to accelerate the adoption of digital solutions that reach the hundreds of millions of farmers.
Governments have a vital role to play in building and maintaining an enabling environment for digital agriculture. African countries must therefore put in place robust policies and regulations around data ownership, privacy and equity. Private sector investments are required to expand digital infrastructure such as satellites, weather stations, drones, internet connectivity, and cloud based computing.
Our vision is for Africa to become an agricultural powerhouse that provides food security, creates wealth, and generates millions of jobs for our young people. The end-result is improving the lives of the people of Africa. We are therefore determined to transform Africa’s agriculture sector from one of subsistence into a modern, sustainable, and globally competitive sector. Harnessing digital technologies will be central to our efforts.
With the opportunities offered by innovative IT solutions, the excitement and energy of our creative youth and the power of partnerships, let us work closely together to make digitally enabled agriculture the next frontier of economic growth, prosperity, and employment.
Domo arigatou gozaimasu.
Let’s go and do it together!