•Through its 4Afrika initiative, Microsoft has an MoU with the Ministry of Agriculture to collaborate in accelerating innovation in the agricultural sector in Kenya.
•Investing in skills and agri-tech and the sector at large falls directly into the Microsoft 4Afrika strategy.
Microsoft has reaffirmed its commitment to support and digitally transform the agriculture sector in Kenya and the continent.
This, as the agricultural sector remains as key to long-term growth in Africa and the world, a time where industries are called to relook operation models to survive.
According to Microsoft, there is need for continuous investment in the sector, particularly through technology, which has grown year-on-year.
This is evident in the number of agri-tech start ups increasing by 110 per cent in the past two years.
Furthermore, according to World Bank estimates, food production and processing in Africa currently generates over $300 billion (Sh33.31 trillion ) annually, but that figure could rise to $1 trillion(Sh111.04 trillion) a year by 2030, if farmers are given the right access to inputs and resources.
“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,"Amrote Abdella, Regional Director at Microsoft 4Afrika, notes.
Investing in skills and agri-tech and the sector at large falls directly into the Microsoft 4Afrika strategy.
According to Abdella, a long-term approach is key to enabling lasting change and impact in the sector.
“With the sector sustaining 70 per cent of Africa’s livelihoods, we’ve taken the lead to develop a data-driven, connected farming that optimises yields, boosts farm productivity and increases profitability," he said.
He said leveraging the company's extensive partnerships and initiatives network, Microsoft is committed to ensuring that all farming communities are equipped with the latest tools like AI, IoT and edge computing to improve productivity and sustainability across the sector.
The organisation has worked with various partners and customers across the region to realise this strategy and ensure access to the solutions developed.
On a regional level, through its partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Microsoft is 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.
The collaboration continues to support AGRA’s digital transformation as it works to improve food security for 30 million farming households across 11 countries by 2021.
“Our work with Microsoft has allowed us to deepen each area of work we 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 Vanessa Adams, Vice President Strategic Partnerships and Chief of Party, AGRA.
The organisation, through its 4Afrika initiative also signed a MoU with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives to collaborate in accelerating innovation in the agricultural sector in Kenya.
Microsoft have been designing, piloting and launching a programme to drive innovation that addresses key challenges, such as pests and disease control, sustainable agricultural resource management, agri-weather data, and others.