How can new technologies transform agricultural ecosystems?

Vice President in charge of Public Relations

Huawei Northern Africa

Published on

The Covid-19 crisis has caused upheavals in Africa's food supply chains, with a significant impact on the continent's food security. Digital technologies are therefore necessary to improve the productivity and resilience of the African agri-food system.

The continent’s food security is indeed crucial for the economic development of African countries. However, agriculture represents only about 15% of GDP, even though Africa has about 60% of the world’s arable land[1].

If, in 2019, 235 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa were living in a situation of food insecurity, there is no doubt that the current health crisis, coupled with the economic and social crisis that many countries on the continent have been experiencing for several years, have accentuated the socio-economic challenges. Farmers, companies operating in the agricultural sector, African SMEs and consumers have been and continue to be among the first victims of this multidimensional crisis. This situation is all the more worrying given that 51% of the continent’s active population works in the agricultural sector, and therefore depends on its viability for their livelihood[2].  However, it should be noted that these jobs are mainly in subsistence agriculture.

In light of this, new technologies undoubtedly offer effective and innovative solutions to breathe new life into agricultural ecosystems on the continent. This is all the more important given that Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, rising from one billion inhabitants in 2019 to nearly 2.4 billion in less than thirty years[3]. At the same time, feeding the population in Africa will have to be accompanied by increased preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. In this context, it is more than crucial to promote the development of e-agriculture. Through the collection, storage, analysis and sharing of information, digital technologies have the potential to considerably improve yields, helping food system stakeholders make informed decisions and thus achieve significant results in terms of resilience.

Moreover, according to estimates by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), by 2030, 200 million farmers will be in need of digitalization in Africa as a result of the continent’s ongoing digital transformation[4]. To achieve the full potential of agritech, it is therefore necessary to address current challenges related to connectivity, access to energy and finance. Thus, ambitious programs involving public authorities and private sector actors must be put in place to allow the greatest number of people to access innovative tools and thus benefit from the advantages offered by these solutions.

Huawei already has solutions for these obstacles, starting with the “Smart Irrigation” project in Morocco. This project, which uses 5G, the cloud, artificial intelligence and big data, enables remote, precise and intelligent irrigation, using the right amount of water to increase production. Thus, by installing sensors on the ground to collect and store data, this project aims to measure the humidity, temperature, electrical conductivity or salinity of water, the objective being to optimize production, while achieving a saving of more than 60% of water waste. In the same vein, the “Rural Solar Power” project in Cameroon, which consists of deploying green energy solutions combined with artificial intelligence, has made it possible to open up more than 1,000 villages, and in the process, nearly 4.5 million people have gained access to a stable connection.

At Huawei, we are convinced that new technologies have a significant role to play in improving the living conditions of people in Africa and around the world. For example, we are convinced that the gradual arrival of the 5G network on the African continent will not only improve the mobile network, but will also be a real source of socio-economic progress, particularly in the agricultural sector.

In order to maximize the opportunities offered by new technologies in all sectors, including agriculture, it is essential to familiarize and train young African talent with digital tools. In order for them to be able to meet the challenges of their profession and take full control of the digital future of their country, and ultimately, of the continent, we at Huawei have been committed to promoting ICT (information and communication technology) skills training for more than twenty years now. As such, the Group is working with African governments to stimulate digital transformation and bring more opportunities to tomorrow’s youth through various education programs, such as the Huawei ICT Academy, Seeds for the Future and the iTB talent project in Egypt.

The hopes of the long-awaited green revolution on the continent, based on the increase in agricultural production in recent years coupled with the use of innovative sustainable solutions, require the mobilization of policy makers and private actors. It is essential that states invest in irrigation, encourage the transition to digitalization, and support small farmers with loans. These measures would then make it possible to limit the long-term economic consequences of the pandemic, while capitalizing on the natural resources that the African continent offers, and thus make the agricultural sector one of the keys to the socio-economic development and growth of countries.

By Adnane Ben Halima,

Vice President in charge of Public Relations, Huawei Northern Africa

[1] La Tribune Afrique, “[CONNECT 54′] Comment moderniser l’agriculture africaine par le numérique ?”, 2022

[2] Business France, “L’Afrique : un potentiel agricole considérable, riche d’opportunités” (2022)

[3] « En 2050, plus de la moitié de la population africaine aura moins de 25 ans », Agence française de développement, (2019).

[4] Spore, “Digitalisation agricole en Afrique”, 2019 (PDF)

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