President, U.S.-Africa Business Center, Sr. Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
October 21, 2019
Since 1986, Des Moines, Iowa, often referred to as the “breadbasket of the world,” has been at the forefront of agriculture innovation and thought leadership through its annual World Food Prize. The landmark aspect of the World Food Prize, the Borlaug Dialogue, is an international symposium that brings together the world’s top minds to discuss solutions to hunger shortages and lack of food security throughout the world, including in Africa. On October 15, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce capitalized on Des Moines’ ag prominence during its inaugural U.S. – Africa AgTech Forum.
This first of its kind, day-long event addressed the integration of technology throughout the global agriculture supply chain. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with support from members such as Bayer, John Deere, and IBM, showcased the impact of technology on agriculture supply chains in Africa. To highlight developments with precision agriculture technology, representatives from John Deere discussed how their company is finding innovative ways to help farmers manage their equipment and crop data to improve profitability.
It is estimated that by 2050, the African continent will be home to 2.2 billion people, many of whom rely on agriculture as their livelihood. Many smallholder farmers throughout the continent face difficulties unique to developing markets, including lack of financing, lack of land rights ownership – especially among women – and lack of adequate resources to mitigate the effects of climate change on crop production. According to the World Bank’s recent publication on Agriculture in Africa – Telling Facts from Myths, labor in agriculture is not intrinsically less productive on the African farm.
Rather, lack of resources and integration into the agriculture supply chain challenges efficiency and maximization of production for many smallholder farmers. The relevance of emerging technologies cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to agriculture in 21st century Africa.
New technologies are changing the face of Africa’s agriculture value chains. For example, developments in seed technology, precision agriculture, and mobile financing apps are expanding opportunities for countless families and farmers across the 54 countries that make up Africa. Technology such as John Deere’s ExactApply solutions allows for better weed and pest control, promoting crop growth.
Victoria Seeds LTD, a Uganda-based company featured in the AgTech program, provides a wide range of adapted seed products resistant to drought while companies like Agrisync, another featured in the program, connect smallholder farmers with agribusiness consultants using app-based technology. The adoption of these technologies and others will not be possible without the cooperation of governments, international agencies, and private-sector actors in Africa – and the U.S. Chamber is committed to supporting this cooperation from a private sector perspective.
To ensure much-needed stability and predictability to Africa’s ag community, it is important to work as a cooperative. Along with the World Food Prize, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Cultivation Corridor, the U.S. Chamber is committed to working together to implement lasting policy changes in Africa’s agriculture technology space — changes that aim to address the demands of a global economy driven by the continents rapidly expanding population.