African universities urged to focus on farming technology
The African Development Bank has urged academic institutions to adapt their curriculum to enable technology-driven farming, saying there is no reason why Africa should be spending $35bn a year importing food.
According to the bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina, the rapid pace of growth in the use of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain technology, will transform agriculture.
He said technology transfer was needed immediately and evidence from countries such as Nigeria had demonstrated that technology coupled with strong government backing was already yielding positive results.
"Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers," Adesina said last week in an address at the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual meeting, held in Washington, DC.
All it needs to do is to harness the available technologies with the right policies and rapidly raise agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers
"It is more likely that the future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drones to determine the size of their farms, monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest."
Adesina said African universities needed to adapt their curriculum to enable technology-driven farmers and to focus on agribusiness entrepreneurship for young people.
"All it needs to do is to harness the available technologies with the right policies and rapidly raise agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers."
According to a recent report by the University of Stellenbosch Business School, which was commissioned by the Western Cape provincial government, agriculture could benefit from digital technology, such as blockchain, to provide product traceability, which is increasingly important for consumers. The report recommends that producers turn to blockchain technology to provide verifiable information to track food origins.
Blockchain, or the distributed ledger system, has given rise to cryptocurrencies. The system uses independent computers to synchronise transactions online without the need for validation.
The report says tertiary institutions will need to strengthen their courses with the theory, skills and knowledge related to the fourth industrial revolution, which will in turn attract new students to the sector.