A revolution is brewing in African agriculture: The spread of mobile and digital technology is bringing rapid advancement to rural Africa, and an increasingly self-confident and self-reliant continent is creating African solutions to African problems, says N. Muthukumar, Group CFO, Olam International.

Author:Muthukumar, N.
Position::Communique
 
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Africa's agricultural challenges are multifarious, and defy simplistic solutions. Many are geological and geographical in origin. Others can be traced to long periods of colonial rule that smothered local innovation, and both economic and institutional development. Yet there is cause for optimism.

Vast tracts of Africa are exhibiting rapid transformation, driven by a mixture of policy interventions and astute application of modern technology. Recent developments in technology, combined with innovation that caters to local needs, are playing a significant role in advancing agricultural development. Thousands of farmers across Africa are benefiting from modern cropping techniques, improved access to markets, and financial innovation in line with community requirements.

In Cote d'Ivoire, for instance, Olam's integrated ginning model is empowering farmers with market knowledge and agricultural techniques that have led to heightened productivity. In addition, our 100% off-take guarantee has played a key role in providing farmers with the assurance required to increase volumes. This has helped us develop a sustainable supply chain for the future while having a transformational impact on the livelihoods of small farmers. Through our Olam AtSource initiative, we are leveraging digital technologies to integrate growers into the supply chain itself. Our vision is to develop a comprehensive sustainable solution that ensures food traceability across the value-chain, while transforming farming communities through addressing economic, educational and healthcare needs.

Mobile banking has unleashed a societal revolution, benefiting large sections of the population hitherto deprived of access to formal channels of finance. Rapid penetration of mobile phones and payment services has dramatically increased access to financial services for rural populations. Africa is by far the leading mobile finance market, with the highest penetration of customers with mobile money accounts: 21% of adults in the region have a mobile money account. In large parts of the continent, traditional cash payments for agricultural products have substantially been replaced by mobile payments, leading to reduced transaction costs and enhanced security compared to cash transactions.

Poor communication has historically been a key factor in market failures in Africa, limiting access to markets, and leaving farmers unable to tap into demand cycles. With increasing mobile and internet...

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