Dr. Ralph Elsaesser selected as team leader for the elaboration of the African Union Continental Digital Transformation Strategy for Agriculture.

There is a pressing need for overarching digital strategies to unlock the potential of digitisation in the agricultural sector. As stipulated in the 2018-19 CTA Report “The Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report”, Digitalisation for agriculture implies the use of digital technologies, innovations, and data to transform business models and practices across the agricultural value chain and address bottlenecks in, inter alia, productivity, postharvest handling, market access, finance, and supply chain management so as to achieve greater income for smallholder farmers, improve food and nutrition security, build climate resilience and expand inclusion of youth and women.

Digital technologies can help African farmers increase their profitability and reduce their environmental impact, however they are more effective when supported by public policy. A top-down approach here is dangerous, transformation needs to be intrinsic and transformation needs understanding and behavioural change. Enabling environments here are key to success. Benefiting from digital solutions efficiently in agriculture works the best when there is a reliable mobile network available. But a wider approach is necessary: the aim is not only that African farmers use digital solutions to improve their businesses, the medium-term goal must be that these solutions are built in Africa by Africans. Hackathons, boot camps, accelerators are key to success for the engaged and well-educated African Youth. Thus, the enabling environments comprise of improved Internet accessibility, access to electricity, improved service coverage and performance of the mobile service networks, making these services affordable to the people and education. At a higher level, governments can facilitate the necessary transformation process by regulation and law.

Executive Council Decision EX.CL/Dec.1075(XXXVI) in February 2020 requested AU departments to develop sectoral implementation strategies/plans under the AU Digital Transformation Strategy (DTS). Digital agriculture was identified as one of the critical sectors of the DTS. Policy recommendations and proposed actions have therefore been anchored in the DTS.

In light of this, the AUC Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (DARBE), together with the Department of Infrastructure and Energy, will develop a Digital Agriculture Strategy for Africa with the technical support of the European Union-funded PRIDA project.

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