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Smartphone technology revolutionising African farming

As Internet access has broadened in Africa, technology firms have been able to reach an ever wider audience

That trend is set to continue, with half of Africa’s one billion people predicted to have Internet access by 2025, according to consultancy firm McKinsey & Co, who also predicted that 360mn smartphones will be in use in the continent in the next ten years.

Under these conditions, mobile technology has been revolutionising the way African farmers do business.

One such example is Kenyan start-up M-Farm, which enables farmers to access information about market prices, lower purchase costs by aggregating orders of farm supplies, and sell produce collectively, all via text message.

Company co-founder Jamila Abass said, “Farmers are becoming more responsive to technology and no longer see it as a tool for the urban middle class people only.”

Another example is smartphone app iCow, which allows farmers to input and receive information on issues like livestock feeding practices, disease control and milk record keeping, as well as connecting them to nearby veterinarians.

Global food production will need to increase by 70 per cent by 2050 to meet rising demand, according to UN research, and with more than half of the world’s unused arable land, Africa is set to play a key role.

A lack of training, infrastructure and capital has meant that land farmed by African smallholders has typically only produced around one-seventh of the tonnage per hectare of farmland in developed countries.

According to McKinsey & Co, Internet technology has the potential to increase agricultural productivity in Africa by around US$3bn a year.