The Critical Future of African Agriculture
Today, the world relies on Africa as the last growth frontier as it becomes an increasingly urban and booming continent. However, there is still a long way to go before it catches up with Asian emerging economies. In fact, Africa has the lowest wheat yield in the world compared to the highest one in the Netherlands. 55% of African arable land available is not cultivated as opposed to the 8% in North America. These numbers highlight the high potential for expansion and investment in the African agricultural industry. Compared to other industries, agriculture has been slow to adopt the leading edge of technologies from the Digital Revolution. The time has come for Africa to experience its own Green Revolution thanks to better access to financing information (Big Data) and technology (remote sensing). Funded by the European Commission based in the Netherlands, CTA -Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation- and SOWIT have taken a flying leap into drone technology.
An Experience Capitalization workshop gathering 10 African drone operators
Recognizing the disruptive digital opportunities provided by UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) in agriculture, Hamza Rkha Chaham, founder of SOWIT and former Head of International Development at AIRINOV, partnered with CTA. Last year, they trained 10 African entrepreneurs into becoming leaders in the drone operating industry. Countries represented were Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. A year after this training, these participants as well as EY, a leading consulting firm, met in Ghana for an experience capitalization workshop from June 18th till June 23rd. The objectives of this workshop were not only to improve business efficiency and enterprise management as drone operators but also to share and analyse challenges, successes, and failures in operationalizing drone services in Africa.
Giacomo Rambaldi, Senior Program Coordinator at CTA, asserts that focusing on the digitalization of agriculture in the Sub-Saharan Africa, Pacific and the Caribbean has recently been his main focus. By supporting the development of African entrepreneurs, these 10 drone operators are now able to use remote sensed images to improve the yield of local farmers and agribusinesses. As a result, CTA is collaborating with SOWIT, a French tech startup that builds tailored decision support tools empowering African farmers through Smart Data analytics and remote sensing. “Not only do we operationalize drone technology able to provide basic processing of crop conditions (NDVI indicator) but we also make sure that it is creating additional value for the farmer or agribusiness.” Thus, for each project Hamza and Giacomo undertake, they look forward to performing a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that farmers get a return on investment after paying for a drone flight and crop advice from their local drone operators. SOWIT’s mission relies on modelling tailored decision support tool to achieve the highest value in order to fit the farmer’s need and local conditions. By using drones with cutting-edge sensors, SOWIT surveys the crops, keeps their data updated, and informs agribusinesses about the areas that require improvement.
The Experience Capitalization Workshop resulted in the creation an African drone operator consortium called AfricaGoesDigital. Watch the following video to understand their objective:
Another workshop focusing on UAS training as well as enterprise management and business development is currently taking place in Lusaka, Zambia from July 11 to July 18.
With these 20 newly trained drone operators from Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Angola and Malawi, the consortium AfricanGoesDigital is growing. Stay tuned. Saved
Written by Aïda El Kohen and Hamza Rkha Chaham