Money makes the world go round..right? Well, maybe the tides are turning, and there is another influencer that is pulling the strings of the world. Data! Data and its analysis is influencing our daily lives constantly, whether at home sitting on the sofa watching Netflix, or in the work place, trying to work out how to deliver your product to the right audience on social media. It is even helping you to get to work quicker by letting you know the quickest routes.
But some traditional sectors in Africa are finding it difficult to keep up with the data revolution. In many areas agriculture remains almost unchanged for decades, or even centuries. Traditional methods are used throughout the process, from ploughing the land to selling produce at markets. This means, a large amount of farmers are not utilising data to improve their farming practices, increasing yields and selling at fairer prices. As you will have seen on Inventive Africa over the past couple of years, technology is beginning to be developed for the African agricultural sector. Many of these apps use mobile technology to put information in the hands of farmers, and they don’t even need to have smart phones.
Technology is letting farmers to ask advice from other around the world, with innovations like those of WeFarm. It is helping them sell their produce online, without having to transport it to market themselves, and also enabling them to know the prices of produces in the market on a particular day without having to rely on the price of a middleman. Technology is even enabling farmers to gain access to farm equipment such as tractors. All of these and many more have access to so much data, which can be tapped into to change the fortunes of farmers across the country.
There are hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers across Africa, in some regions providing up to 80% of the food consumed. That means that food security in Africa is resting on a knife edge, and any natural disasters could set a chain of reactions in process leaving many without food. With the available land, the African continent should be able to feed itself, and not rely at all on foreign food imports (which are often held up by subsidies from other nations). Only 5% of cultivatable land, for example, is irrigated, largely reducing the potential of the land.
There may be a large amount of data already available to be utilised, but there is far more that can be produced, analysed and utilised across the continent. Data can include information about soil types, growing best practice, weather, certification, storage, logistics, local and regional pricing, and even access to credit. (Access to credit is one of the major changes for local farmers, with mobile money and other data resources enabling a credit score, for example with LendingSquare in Ghana)
With the agricultural sector employing a huge percentage of people across the continent, it is important to use all opportunities to secure the sector. The African agricultural sector is the foundation of which development can be built on. Without a strong and innovative agricultural sector, it is difficult to develop other sectors. The population needs to eat, and it needs to make money, and the agricultural sector fulfils both needs. Utilisation of data can take farming to the next level, and even push Africa to fulfilling its promise of being the bread basket of the world, as well as Africa itself! And when it can do that, it can start to dictate prices, which are often unfairly placed on its produce.
Data driven organisations such as SAP are already tracking and collecting data related to agriculture in Africa. Other organisations from outside the continent will also be collecting data about all manner of things, ready to sell back to the continent. We have seen that Africa has the expertise to collect and analyse its own data for the good of the populace. We are looking to write about African led data companies that are using their data to make sectors more efficient. If you know of any, or work for any, then get in contact and tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.