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AU asks countries to leverage on digital technology to drive farming, AfCFTA agenda

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The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Economy at the African Union Commission (AU), Ms Josefa Leonel Correla Sacko has encouraged African countries to leverage on digital technology to provide solutions to the challenges in the agricultural sector ahead of full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agenda.

Ms Sacko said this at the opening of 2019 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) on the theme: “Grow Digital: Leveraging Digital Transformation to Drive Sustainable Food Systems in Africa”, held in Accra.

She said if Africa truly wants to transform its agricultural sector and reduce Africa’s $2.4 billion food import by 2050, it was important to leverage on digital technology and innovation to drive agriculture, whose products will top exports as soon as AfCFTA comes to full force.

The forum attracted about 2,300 delegates from 79 countries in Africa and across the globe, including Heads of State, Ministers of Agriculture, Central Bank Governors, captains of industry, development partners, representatives of farmer organisations, youth entrepreneurs and other critical stakeholders.

The Commissioner advised African governments to intensify education for smallholder farmers on use of technology, building capacity of start-up businesses and promoting social inclusion by involving women in the digital revolution drive.

The move, in her views, would enable African countries to use digital technology to promote market linkages, market goods and services, ensure efficient food production, serve as an instrument for integration and make the agricultural sector more “attractive.”

She averred that using digital technology in agriculture has vast opportunities for farmers as it enabled them to gather accurate data on farm practices, facilitate fertilizer application, soil testing to verify nutrient efficiency, irrigation system management and topographical survey, which would help in overcoming infrastructure deficit on the continent.

The event is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, pulling together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to discuss and commit policies, programmes and investments to achieve an inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation across the African continent.

Ms Sacko added that, digital technology would improve inputs supply, seeds, machinery, fertilizers and access to finance as well as ensuring linkages between food suppliers and buyers, noting that, the agricultural sector has the potential of providing livelihoods for about 75 per cent of the African population.

She said the AU, has developed a Continental Digital Strategy, to drive the digitization agenda.

The strategy, she added, was anchored on three major pillars. These are; creating a conducive environment for digital agriculture, improving rural digital infrastructure and developing agribusiness finance services for agripreneurs and small-and-medium scale enterprises and empowering women to use ICT to enhance productivity.

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