Agritech, a concept aimed at upsetting African agriculture

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The introduction of technologies in African agriculture is now a necessity. These new technologies are likely to accompany the Agriculture of the African continent and make it the "attic of the world". This initiative was at the heart of fruitful exchanges during Africa days organized on the campus of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes commercial (HEC) in Jouy-en-Josas (Paris) on April 3, 2018.

According to the experts who took part in this meeting, the technological innovations applied to African agriculture could make the agriculture sector a pillar of the development of the black continent. The predominant role of African agriculture in the economies of the continent is no doubt if it is known that at least 65% of Africa's workforce is working in this sector.

But the work of the earth today faces a considerable stake in the figures of demography: If, at present, the continent has 1.2 billion inhabitants, it will count almost double in 2050. It is therefore today that the sector is playing its destiny, because the potential for development is considerable. But, the flip side of the coin, the continent's growing demography is also a ticking time bomb if nothing is done to enable agriculture to grow and embody a lever for a whole continent. It is to discuss this issue and to discuss the various responses that have been met by experts in the sector on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at the Africa days. Organised by HEC Paris, the event has, for one evening, brought together various economic actors operating in Africa, around the theme "what future for African agriculture? The Green Revolution 2.0 ".

Technological innovation at the service of producers

And among them, the founders of seed project, a think tank that promotes the contribution of new technologies to develop African agriculture. A solution proposed by the founders of the project, Moroccan students from a business school, who first carried out a field study in order to fully understand the problems faced by farmers. And the observation is clear: the production methods inherited from the second half of the twentieth century have reached their limits. A "technology tour", during which students met creators dedicated to Agritech, allowed them to build a catalogue of solutions adaptable to African issues.

Among them, the proposals of AgroSmart, a Brazilian start-up that proposes to collect and analyse the data specific to each culture. These will allow farmers to anticipate their decisions and thus produce more. A strategy that allows to predict the problems of harvesting due to climate change, as well as the lack of water, two difficulties of the daily life faced by African farmers. Another solution reported by the seed project, that of the start-up SunCulture. Kenyan society offers an innovative drip irrigation system, whose distribution is assured by solar energy, an inexhaustible resource on the continent. A system that allows, according to the company, to increase the yields of small producers by 300%. For Fadel Bennani, one of the founders of seed project, using these innovative technologies could even in the future erect a new economic model specific to Africa, the Western cooperative model "not working on the continent, because in particular a lack of trust between actors, "he said.

Solutions brought by the technology also defended by Christian Kamayou, founder of MyAfricanStartUp, a platform designed to facilitate the linking of startups with the general public. For this former student of HEC specializing in young shoots, African startups have a floor and must tackle four fields of application in particular, namely "the increase in production", "the search for financing", "insurance stable income despite the weather ", and finally the one which consists in finding" how to fix the good price of the products, at a moment T, taking into account the parameters of supply and demand ". Challenges that, for example, attacked Esoko, a ghanan start-up. It thus offers mobile tools – 1 billion smartphones are used in Africa – and on the Web, intended for data collection and especially for the development of communication between farmers and experts, thanks to an SMS platform.

Beyond technology

But if startups bring solutions, they are nevertheless confronted with various obstacles. Notoriety deficit, lack of funding, accompanimations… difficulties that show that, despite the bubbling that has characterised this type of structure for a few years, they cannot do everything. Beyond the Agritech solution defended by the young shoots, other answers can be proposed by the research. Patrick Caron, geographer at the Centre for international cooperation in agronomic research for development (Cirad), stresses that other innovations in public-private partnerships can also contribute to the development of and agriculture.

Targeted research programmes can also emerge new economic systems and models within the agricultural sector. A programme developed from 2005 between CIRAD and Asprodeb – the Senegalese Association for the promotion of grassroots development – has led to the creation of several peanut growers ' cooperatives. The pilot operation, conducted in Paoskoto, demonstrated that by deeply reorganizing the players in the sector the activity is growing as well as the profits. To illustrate that the hour is a real revolution in the approaches practiced so far in the African agricultural world.

Moctar FICOU/VivAfrik

With afrique.lepoint.fr

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