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

Simeon Ehui's picture
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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.

Building ladders of opportunity by connecting people to data

Jimena Luna's picture
Open data gives us the power to innovate and be competitive at the local and global level—but how do we unleash the potential to do more with data? (Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank)


Every day, more of our decisions are data-driven and our lives become dependent on digital tools —think about the weather and transportation apps on your smartphone. Today, governments produce more data than ever before, yet the Open Data Barometer finds that most countries fail to "use open data to truly change people’s lives for the better." This open data sits unused, and citizens are not able to reap the economic benefits. There is a myriad of payoffs to using government data to tackle complex problems like finding jobs, affordable housing, better schools, and making communities thrive. Open data gives us the power to innovate and be competitive at the local and global level—but how do we unleash the potential to do more with data?