Why expanding access to agri-tech is vital for Africa


A rice farm at Hola Irrigation Scheme, Tana River.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Technology is, undoubtedly, the new world order, impacting all spheres of modern existence. From agriculture to medicine, the driving forces are science, technology and innovation, all of which rely on rigorous research.

Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Africa’s economic agenda, contributing to employment, food security and economic growth. Recognising the centrality of technology in socioeconomic development, the African Union (AU), in 2005, developed Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action that outlined strategies to improve the policy environment and support innovative mechanisms.

But the road to optimum agricultural productivity in Africa is still long and packed with obstacles ranging from declining fertile lands to climate change, environmental pollution and noxious weeds and pests. To redress them requires progression of agricultural technology, utilisation of innovative technologies and exploration of opportunities to address challenges affecting technological development, uptake and use, particularly bio-technology.

Technology has a big place in steering a vibrant, commercial and modern agriculture sector. Indeed, Africa is replete with the many benefits of agri-tech—including superior yields, greater resistance to pests and diseases, climate tolerance and relatively shorter maturity periods. There is thus a need to promote innovative agricultural technology transfers that address farmer productivity constraints.

These innovative and cutting-edge agricultural technologies, which include genetic modification, gene editing and other areas of agricultural biotechnology, are intended to improve the health and wealth of communities by mitigating production challenges, enhancing productivity and contributing to the continent’s economies.

Despite steady growth in technology development, there has been little diffusion of these products to their intended beneficiaries—farmers and consumers—due to persistent bottlenecks that lead to low returns on investment. The breadth of these bottlenecks needs to be illuminated by action from high-level decision-makers and relevant government institutions to facilitate in-country and cross-boundary value chain optimisation and trade.

In this regard, Nairobi will on October 30 to November 3 host the inaugural biennial African Conference on Agricultural Technology (ACAT). The global event, co-hosted by Kenya and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and themed “Agricultural resilience through innovation”, will shine the torch on agricultural innovations, seeking actionable solutions to agriculture’s challenges that will drive change and foster growth.

The conference will highlight concerns of farmers not accessing innovative technologies; facilitate capacity building on barriers to technology transfer; generate higher policy-level interest; and amplify efforts for the transformation of agriculture and adoption of technologies and innovations. It will also address inadequacies in policies, laws, regulations and institutional frameworks to support their adoption.

Dr Kanangire, PhD, is the executive director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). [email protected]