By Prince Osuagwu

With agriculture sustaining up to 70% of Africa’s livelihoods, Microsoft is working with government and private sector partners to enable data-driven, precision and connected farming that optimizes yields and boosts farm productivity and profitability.

This is the position of Microsoft Nigeria Country Manager Ola Williams, when the software giant hosted a virtual roundtable panel discussion on digital transformation in agriculture for food security in Africa, recently.

With partners from the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) andtheNational Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Microsoft provoked a discussion on models to be adopted for Africa to be self sufficient in food production.

The discussion explored 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.

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 center of Agri-tech solutions.

  In 2021, agriculture contributed 22.35% of the total Nigeria GDP, with over 70 percent of Nigerians engaging in agriculture, largely at a subsistence level. As the Nigerian government seeks to diversify and move away from depending on oil as a source of revenue, Micrososft says it has become important to explore ways to make farming in Nigeria more profitable to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider farming as a viable means of livelihood.

Williams says that one way in which Agri-tech changes the face of agriculture is through democratising information. “Agriculture is the main driver of employment in Nigeria; however the sector has seen reduced focus post oil era until recently. Agriculture is coming to the front burner as the Nigeria government is actively seeking to diversify and drive towards moving away from solely depending on oil as source of revenue. Some of the challenges agriculture faces in Nigeria is the absence of value addition and supply chain linkages. “Innovating in these areas of challenges will empower farmers to gain faster access to the market and provide them with an opportunity to grow their businesses at scale. To help farmers adopt technology, partnerships are needed to simplify platforms and provide access to technology, particularly for rural farmers”.

Director, Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr Usman Gambo Abdullahi says: “To meet these challenges, Microsoft, in partnership with NITDA and multi-national companies operating in the country, are hosting an Agro Innovate Hackathon. We believe that within the Nigeria tech eco system lies 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 NITDA, 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.

He added: “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”

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