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How can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

Simeon Ehui's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
There’s no question that agriculture is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals. It is fundamental for poverty reduction, economic growth and environment sustainability. African food market continues to grow. It is estimated that African food markets will triple to US$1 trillion from its current US$300 billion value. Farming accounts for 60% of total employment in Sub-Saharan Africa—and food system jobs account for even more. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025.

And yet, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing serious challenges. Agricultural productivity in Africa lags behind other regions. One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically undernourished. Africa’s food system is further strained by rapid population growth and climate change. The food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies, threatening crop and livestock production. If no adaptation occurs, production of maize—which is one of Africa’s staple crops—could decline by up to 40% by 2050. Clearly, business as usual approaches to agriculture in Africa aren’t fit for transforming the sector to meet its full potential.

Digital technology could be part of the solution. But how can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

It’s instructive to look at startups, which are an emerging force in Africa’s agriculture sector.

Technology works for getting poor people’s problems fixed – we just have to get it right

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
© Sarah Farhat/World Bank

One of the encouraging signs that I pick up whenever I travel is the difference that technology is making to the lives of millions of marginalized people. In most cases it’s happening on a small, non-flashy scale in hundreds of different ways, quietly improving the opportunities that that have been denied to remote communities, women and young people for getting a foot on the ladder.

And because it is discreet and under the radar I dare as an optimist to suggest that we are at the beginning of something big – a slow tsunami of success. Let me give you some reasons why I believe this.

How Zambia used PEFA Assessment Reports for public financial management reforms

Srinivas Gurazada's picture
Graphic: World Bank

Can developing countries create strong Public Financial Management (PFM) systems, without a way to measure progress and make corrections? This would be like a ship sailing unchartered seas without a compass. The Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) Framework, a global gold standard for assessing a country’s PFM systems, can be a powerful guiding tool to help governments raise financial resources and spend them efficiently for service delivery.

The power of sunlight: incentivizing private investment in solar PV

Susanne Foerster's picture


Photo: Pixabay Creative Commons

Solar power is experiencing a surge in popularity across the globe. It prevents carbon emissions, helps diversify the power generation mix, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, and can increase off-grid energy access.
 
With falling costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, advancing storage technology, and grid integration, prices for solar PV electricity have been falling rapidly around the world and solar is now in many countries price competitive with traditional energy sources and has become particularly attractive for developing countries.
 

Interest rate caps: The theory and the practice

Aurora Ferrari's picture

Ceilings on lending rates remain a widely-used instrument in many EMDEs as well as developed economies. The economic and political rationale for putting ceilings on lending rates is to protect consumers from usury or to make credit cheaper and more accessible. Our recent working paper shows that at least 76 countries around the world, representing more than 80% of global GDP and global financial assets, impose some restrictions on lending rates. These countries are not clustered in specific regions or income groups, but spread across all geographic and income dimensions.

Breaking ground to make climate-smart agriculture ‘the new normal’

Martien van Nieuwkoop's picture
Farmers in India and beyond will benefit as climate-smart agriculture scales up around the world. © ICRISAT
Farmers in India and beyond will benefit as climate-smart agriculture scales up around the world. © ICRISAT


Once a conference room talking point, Climate-smart agriculture is now an action item for farmers, extension workers, agribusinesses, and other stakeholders throughout the agricultural sector.  

In the last few years, CSA—which is an approach to agriculture that boosts productivity and resilience, and reduces GHG emissions- has gained momentum as understanding of its critical importance to the food system has risen. Nearly every government representative and farmer I meet during my missions (most recently in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan) expresses genuine interest in making CSA part of their farming routines and agricultural sector.  At COP 23 in Bonn, there was a major breakthrough for CSA as stakeholders agreed to focus on concrete ways for countries and stakeholders to implement climate actions in agriculture on the ground.

This momentum is reflected in the Bank’s own actions. In 2016, the World Bank Group released its climate change action plan, where we committed to delivering CSA at scale to increase the efficiency and resilience of food systems. Since the Bank started tracking CSA in 2011, our CSA investments have grown steadily, reaching a record US$ 1 billion in 2017. We expect to maintain and even increase that level next year as our efforts to scale up CSA intensify.

How to attract and motivate passionate public service providers

David Evans's picture

In Gaile Parkin's novel Baking Cakes in Kigali, two women living in Kigali, Rwanda – Angel and Sophie – argue over the salary paid to a development worker: "Perhaps these big organisations needed to pay big salaries if they wanted to attract the right kind of people; but Sophie had said that they were the wrong kind of people if they would not do the work for less. Ultimately they had concluded that the desire to make the world a better place was not something that belonged in a person's pocket. No, it belonged in a person's heart."
 
It's not a leap to believe – like Angel and Sophie – that teachers should want to help students learn, health workers who want help people heal, and other workers in service delivery should want to deliver that service. But how do you attract and motivate those passionate public servants? Here is some recent research that sheds light on the topic.
 

Why technology will disrupt and transform Africa’s agriculture sector—in a good way

Simeon Ehui's picture
© Dasan Bobo/World Bank
© Dasan Bobo/World Bank


Agriculture is critical to some of Africa’s biggest development goals. The sector is an engine of job creation: Farming alone currently accounts for about 60 percent of total employment in sub-Saharan Africa, while the share of jobs across the food system is potentially much larger. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025. Agriculture is also a driver of inclusive and sustainable growth, and the foundation of a food system that provides nutritious, safe, and affordable food. 


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