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Microsoft affirms its commitment to support Kenya’s agricultural sector

By Mathew Ndungu
Friday, November 27th, 2020
Tea farmers pick tea. Photo/File
In summary

At a time where industries are called to relook operation models to survive, the agricultural sector has emerged as key to long-term growth in Africa and the world.

Recognising the need for continuous investment in this area, particularly through technology, Microsoft yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to digitally transforming the sector.

On the continent, investments in agriculture technology have grown year-on-year. This is evident in the number of agri-tech start ups increasing by 110 percent in the past two years.

According to World Bank estimates, food production and processing in Africa currently generates over $300 billion annually, but that figure could rise to $1 trillion a year by 2030 if farmers are given the right access to inputs and resources.

Speaking at a virtual roundtable meeting, Amrote Abdella, the regional director at Microsoft 4Afrika noted that a long-term approach is key to enabling lasting change and impact in the sector.

“Our strategy has always been to build deep partnerships with leading industry, governmental and non-governmental organisations; invest in infrastructure with a focus on solving unique challenges with globally-relevant approaches and build a relevant solution ecosystem. Investing in skills and agri-tech and the sector at large falls directly into this strategy,” he said.

On a regional level, through its partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA),Abdella said that Microsoft was exploring the use of big data and artificial intelligence in enabling data-driven, precision farming to support and increase farm productivity and profitability.

“The partnership also supports farmers in adopting new technologies through digital training content, develops digital skills in agriculture through an internship programme and supports policy advocacy and government engagement around the design of national agriculture digitisation strategies,” he added.

 According to Vanessa Adams, the Vice President Strategic Partnerships and Chief of Party, AGRA, Microsoft has allowed them to deepen each area of work they have begun together both technically and geographically.

“Drawing on Microsoft’s digital architecture support on digital ecosystems and big data platforms has been beneficial for our organisation internally and externally, to the farmers,” said Adams.

Locally, Twiga Foods , a mobile-based business-to-business food supply platform, links smallholder farmers in rural Kenya to informal retail vendors in cities. With Twiga’s mobile platform, vendors can order fresh produce from farmers across Kenya at competitive prices.

Twiga is driving microfinancing for smallholder farmers in Kenya, by creating credit history through goods transactions powered by Microsoft cloud solution.

It currently benefits 8,000 farmers and 15,000 vendors. Kenyan farmer-led agricultural product distribution company Amiran has also worked with Microsoft to enable the digital transformation of the industry at large. 

“Working with Microsoft, we have seen a positive impact, particularly with the ChatBot where PowerBI dashboard capabilities have the potential to be instrumental in accelerating the transformation and access to quality services for those who need it most,” noted Trevor Sherwin, Head of Business Development, Amiran.

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