Microsoft has reaffirmed its commitment to working with both the private and public sectors to accelerate digital transformation in African agriculture in order to increase food security for the continent.
Speaking during a virtual roundtable panel discussion on the topic, Microsoft Kenya Acting Country Manager Kunle Awosika said the organisation is committed to continuing investing in agritech on the continent, with the goal of developing agritech that enables data-driven, precise and connected farming that optimises yields, boosts farm productivity and increases profitability.
“We understand that these important issues will not be solved by one company, but through partnerships with the private sector and our partners in government for maximum impact and benefit to the farmers of Africa,” he said.
Speaking at the same forum, ATO Coordinator, Agriculture Transformation Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives Thule Lenneiye, said: “Through partnerships such as the one with Microsoft, we can offer our smallholder farmers valuable services that help them modernize and digitize age-old farming practices, increasing productivity and boosting food security for our communities and country.”
One way in which agritech changes the face of agriculture is through democratising information. In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Microsoft is investing in the Kenyan National Agriculture Platform as a key initiative to drive digitalization in agriculture. As part of this investment, a developer team based in Kenya has developed an Agri chatbot, which provides extension and advisory services to smallholder farmers using either feature phones or smartphones, via SMS, WhatsApp and Telegram.
The AgriBot provides a key platform that farmers can use to access all the relevant information from the Ministry of Agriculture and other government institutions, as well as services from the private sector. These services are invaluable to the over 400,000 farmers already on the platform who would otherwise not have access to such a resource.
Microsoft also recently announced that it is extending its partnership with the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The initial collaboration between the two organizations started in 2019 when Microsoft and AGRA co-created the AgriBot as a digital solution for localized extension and advisory services for smallholder farmers.
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,” added Kunle.
On his part, John Macharia, AGRA Kenya Country Manager, said: “At AGRA, we realized early on that digital innovation is critical in advancing food security and poverty eradication in Africa. Our partnership with Microsoft will directly support governments, SMEs and farmers, by bringing the digital tools needed to build resilient food systems.”
Africa’s agriculture sector is set for exponential growth in the coming decade, with a projected value of USD 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 Kenya, agriculture is key in the country’s economy, contributing 33% of the GDP and employing more than 40% of the total population. The sector employs more than 40% of the total population and more than 70% of Kenya’s rural people.