Smartphone adoption in Africa has remained sluggish over the latter part of the past decade. That’s starting to change as a combination of demand for better connectivity and more affordable smartphone pricing is driving adoption.
According to a GSAM reportby the end of 2020, 495 million people were subscribed to mobile services in Africa, representing 46% of the region’s population, an increase of nearly 20 million in 2019. An estimated 615 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will subscribe to mobile services by 2025, equivalent to 50% of the region’s population.
- The use of mobile digital technology development can help farmers access critical data and information needed to address certain farm management systems and underlying constraints.
- It is estimated that 615 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will subscribe to mobile services by 2025, equivalent to 50% of the region’s population.
- In Uganda today, farmers can get immediate professional advice by sending photos to extension staff and agronomists through popular digital apps m-Omulimisa and Ezy Agric.
- In Nigeria, Sasakawa Africa Association, in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is developing gender-responsive digital agricultural advisory services tools through a WhatsApp Chatbot.
At the end of 2020, 303 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were connected to mobile internet, or 28% of the population. By 2025, more than 170 million people in the region will have started using mobile internet for the first time, bringing the penetration rate to just under 40% of the population.
According to the company’s website, GSMA Intelligence is a definitive source of global mobile operator data, analysis and forecasts and a publisher of authoritative industry reports and research. Their data covers all carrier groups, networks and MVNOs in every country in the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. GSMA Intelligence relies on leading operators, providers, regulators, financial institutions and third-party industry players to support strategic decision-making and long-term investment planning.
As cell phone ownership increases across the continent, mobile technology offers many opportunities for Africa. Harnessing the growth of mobile digital technologies can significantly help farmers access crucial information and data needed to address specific farm management systems and underlying constraints.
Mobile digital devices such as laptops and smartphones, digital cameras, pagers, personal navigation devices and laptops enable African farmers to access and share information with different stakeholders. These devices can be connected to remote sensing data devices that alert farmers well in advance of upcoming climatic and weather conditions such as droughts and floods. Digital technologies have also enabled farmers to obtain crucial soil quality information for nutrient levels, water levels, pests and disease spread, captured from various sensors, satellites and drones.
The African continent has made tremendous strides in using mobile smartphones to improve agricultural productivity.
In Uganda today, farmers can get immediate professional advice by sending photos to extension staff and agronomists via popular digital apps m-Omulimisa and Ezy Agric.
According to an Africa.com article published on September 14, 2022, the two platforms also allow farmers to get climate updates, report and receive pest and disease outbreak alerts, access inputs, markets and financial services and communicate with their peers around the world. country.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the Sasakawa Africa association (SAA) in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is developing gender-responsive digital agricultural advisory services tools through a WhatsApp Chatbot. These apps, which are used by farmers and extension agents, integrate fertilizer recommendations with relevant agronomic advice. This also widens the scope of the extension. Decision support tools for maize (Nutrient Expert), cassava (AKILIMO) and rice (RiceAdvice) also provide advice on prioritizing investments between the three crops.
On the other hand, in Ethiopia, farmers get information on agronomic management through video extension learning. This is used to train farmers and expedite extension services by showing how-to videos. Additionally, a two-way digital platform is also used to enable the exchange of information with extension experts.
However, several fundamental challenges include inadequate mobile smartphone infrastructure, thus limiting the widespread use by African farmers of mobile digital applications for agricultural purposes. For example, many parts of the African continent have limited mobile phone networks and internet coverage. In addition, reliable broadband remains limited in rural areas where most agricultural activities take place.
According to an AUDA-NEPAD article published on January 25, 2022, African governments and networked service providers are encouraged to target rural areas, more specifically agricultural areas, to improve the profitability of African agricultural activities. In addition, it can also improve regulatory frameworks with a focus on infrastructural improvements, broadband cost-effectiveness, operational reliability, and access to Internet services.
The limited technical and operational knowledge and literacy of most African farmers remains one of the main obstacles to the adoption of mobile digital agricultural technologies. Therefore, African governments are encouraged to formulate digital technology literacy programs and applications targeting farmers, especially farmers lacking basic education. Such efforts can improve digital technology literacy, productivity and food security on the continent. In addition, interventions on internet cost-effectiveness and data costs need to be urgently addressed to improve access for previously disadvantaged farmers. Importantly, decision makers and policy makers are encouraged to help rural communities adopt modern digital technologies suitable for precision agriculture.
The Sasakawa Association for Africa (SAA), in partnership with technology companies and research institutes, supports government efforts for effective delivery of agricultural extension and has trained extension staff and farmers on how to to use digital e-extension platforms so they can teach and support others. . This became more imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic when supply chain and transportation disruptions led to production issues. Digital e-extension technologies have enabled farmers to continue engaging in farming activities.
Finally, the improvements arising from the adoption of digital technologies can encourage African farmers, the private sector and governments to seek more applications of digital technology that can boost smart agriculture.