BusinessDay

Accelerating Nigeria’s agric growth hinges on tech, innovation – Experts

For Africa’s biggest economy to ensure that it experiences an agricultural revolution, its entrepreneurs must leverage technology to create innovative solutions that address issues limiting food production, experts have said.

The experts who spoke at the third edition of Code Cash Crop – an ag-hackathon organized by AFEX urged entrepreneurs in the country to leverage tech in creating innovative solutions that would boost farmers’ productivity, and enable them to gain access to a wider market and scale.

In her keynote address, Olatomiwa Williams, country manager, Microsoft Nigeria & Ghana encouraged Nigerian entrepreneurs to identify problems across the agricultural value chains and proffer technological solutions to them.

“Access to agric based capital, finance, data, and relevant information is limited and these greatly hinder food production. The challenges persist and we believe that its solution lies in tech,” she said.

“With technology, youths will be able to make sustainable living through agriculture and consider it as a viable means of livelihood,” she noted.

Williams spoke about the evolution of the start-up ecosystem in Nigeria and how the commitment of innovators is helping to solve problems in agriculture and other sectors, noting that much more still needs to be done.

“The continent is still growing in agric solutions. One way agri-tech has changed the country’s agriculture is through democratizing information,” she said.

Read also: The Sad, Sorry and Scary state of food insecurity in Africa

However, she noted that the country’s agriculture still faces the challenge of value addition and lack of linkages in the supply chain, stressing that innovating the country’s food supply chain change the narrative.

“We need to focus on accelerating growth in the sector. Innovating in areas where agriculture faces challenges will help farmers scale their business, and it’s essential to simplify technology for smallholder farmers,” Olatomiwa said.

Also, panelists in the first panel on ‘The Present and Future of Agriculture Commodity Trade in Africa said that technology is key in promoting a platform model for agric trade that can focus on providing access to logistics, access to advisory services, access to inputs, and access to the market.

“It is important to carry out comprehensive research for solutions, especially technologies that apply to smallholder farmers which should be tailored to their needs,” said Ikenna Nzewi, chief executive officer and co-founder, Releaf.

Panelists in the second panel on ‘Derisking Cross-border Transactions to Simplify Trade’ highlighted challenges that continue to limit Intra African trade, noting that the challenges create room for many entrepreneurs in the continent to be innovative and develop unique products that are driven by technology.

To boost infra-African trade, the panelists urged policymakers on the continent to ensure that their policies align with the realities of the African market, stressing the need for universal minimum criteria for all players in the value chains.

The experts called for the alignment of commodity trade requirements across the continent, saying it would help drive intra-African trade while boosting access to finance for entrepreneurs.

The experts identified logistics and payment challenges noting that there are lots of connectivity issues that still make it difficult for farmers to easily move their commodities.

“Tech is one way we can use to address most of the challenges limiting intra-African trade,” said Sikemi Tayo, founder of KIT for Professionals.

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