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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Africa’s private sector urged to invest in tech to revamp agriculture  

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- African private sector should invest more in technology to boost Africa’s agricultural renaissance, the CEO of Kenya’s leading mobile phone firm told a regional agricultural forum on Wednesday.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said efforts to revamp and accelerate agricultural production in sub-Sahara Africa will require the concerted effort of both the public and private sector players.

“Solving the future challenge of producing more with less in a more sustainable manner is not mission impossible. The private sector can lead from the front by setting aside more resources for research and innovation,” Collymore told participants at the ongoing Africa Green Revolution Forum.

He noted that private sector players will need to align their business growth strategies to the national development agenda. This he said will need to be done by developing and incorporating innovations that boost agricultural production to guarantee food security.

The alignment, Collymore added will involve investment in research programmes and rollout of information technology-based products and services that can enhance agricultural production.

The Safaricom CEO 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.

Presenting the Safaricom example, Collymore disclosed that a significant portion of the firm’s 320 million U.S. dollars investment in network enhancement had been channeled to rural areas to facilitate clearer telecommunication delivery.

According to Collymore, as part of the firm’s commitment to agricultural and rural development efforts, Safaricom is running full steam to ensure that 80 percent 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.

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 micro-credit solutions delivered through the Safaricom Mshwari and KCB Mpesa mobile money platforms.

“We are not reinventing the wheel. Large scale farmers; in floricultural and horticultural fields are currently relying on mobile broadband Internet access, to exploit market opportunities and manage irrigation systems. Similar strategies, can easily be cascaded and customized for adoption by small-scale farmers,” Collymore said.

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.

“For Africa to become the world’s bread basket, we must look at how to create Agribusiness, not just agriculture,” said Collymore as he challenged governments 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.

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