Efforts to revamp and accelerate agricultural production in sub-Sahara Africa will require the concerted effort of both the public and private sector players, Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore has advised.
Speaking when he addressed the ongoing Africa Green Revolution Forum, Collymore noted that private sector players will need to align their business growth strategies to the national development agenda by developing and incorporating innovations that boost agricultural production
Such alignment, he noted will involve investment in research programmes and rollout of products and services that can enhance agricultural production.
Presenting the Safaricom example, Collymore disclosed that a significant portion of the firm’s Kshs 32billion investment in network enhancement had been channeled to rural areas to facilitate clearer telecommunication delivery.
As part of the firm’s commitment to agricultural and rural development efforts, Safaricom, he added is running full steam to ensure that 80% of Kenya will enjoy 3G mobile broadband network coverage by the end of the year.
“Such efforts are critical in advancing an agricultural renaissance as it will allow the building of Internet platforms that can foster research and farm to market linkages for contemporary farmers,” Collymore said.
He noted that access to the Internet and mobile value added services including mobile banking solutions, will promote market access, as farmers can seize local and international opportunities. Already, Safaricom he disclosed has committed to partner with 23,000 public primary schools, which have been earmarked for connection to the Internet countrywide.
Millions of local farmers he said, are already enjoying convenient credit solutions delivered through the Safaricom Mshwari and KCB Mpesa mobile money platforms.
Large scale farmers; in floricultural and horticultural fields he noted are currently relying on Internet access to exploit market opportunities. Similar strategies, he noted can easily be cascaded and customized for adoption by small-scale farmers to boost the agricultural sectors contribution to national development.
Collymore told the delegates that increasing agricultural production will require a fundamental shift towards a different growth path and a swifter transfer of new products or techniques into practice.
“Solving the future challenge of producing more with less in a more sustainable manner is not mission impossible,” said Mr. Collymore. “The private sector can lead from the front by setting aside more resources for research and innovation.”
He gave the example of Kilimo Salama (“Safe Agriculture”) an insurance product designed for Kenyan farmers to insure their farm inputs against drought and excess rain. The innovation was a result of a partnership between Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, UAP Insurance, and Safaricom.
“Kilimo Salama offers farmers who plant on as little as one acre insurance policies to shield them from significant financial losses when drought or excess rain are expected to wreak havoc on their harvests,” he said.
He also cited iCow which is a USSD based Agricultural Information Service with a variety of products available as a subscription service through the Safaricom short code *285# to help farmers enhance productivity.
The service providers have partnered with various companies including Safaricom and now hundreds of thousands of farmers are benefiting from the service.
“For Africa to become the world’s bread basket, we must look at how to create Agribusiness not just Agriculture,” said Mr. Collymore as he challenged governments need to work towards ensuring stability to enable private sector investment in agriculture.
“Agriculture programs need to be ‘farmer-centred and knowledge-based’ so that the full potential of farmers, both men and women, including small-holder and commercial farmers, can be harnessed in making food security and sustainable development a reality,” he said.
He added that many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that global leaders hope to achieve as a way of eradicating poverty are underpinned by agriculture and that investing in the sector can address not only hunger and malnutrition but also other challenges including poverty; water and energy use; climate change; and unsustainable production and consumption.
The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was established in 2010, following a three-year series of African Green Revolution Conferences
(AGRC) held in Oslo, Norway from 2006–2008.
Today, the Forum has emerged as Africa’s leading “platform of agriculture platforms” that brings together a range of critical stakeholders in the African agriculture landscape including African heads of state, ministers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society, scientists, as well as international development and technical partners of Africa to discuss and develop concrete plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa.