Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative has pledged support to the One Million Farmers Platform through disruptive agricultural technologies.
As part of the partnership, Microsoft will be providing technical and business support to 14 Kenyan innovators selected to build technology solutions for the platform, a World Bank initiative, that aims to improve the productivity, profitability and resilience of one million African farmers.
“Agriculture is a priority area of investment for us, not only because of the enormous number of livelihoods it supports and the economic growth it drives, but also because it has a high potential to be a data driven sector,” said Amrote Abdella, Regional Director of Microsoft 4Afrika.
Microsoft mentors will work closely with each innovator to provide mentorship around business development, technology architecture and go-to-market strategies. Additionally, innovators will have the opportunity to apply for Microsoft’s AI for Earth grant – a US$50 million programme that invests in solutions promoting sustainability around water, climate change, biodiversity and agriculture.
The pledge comes just three months after Microsoft 4Afrika partnered with the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) in Africa, which similarly looks to promote data-driven agriculture to improve food security in 11 countries.
“With an expanding population, there’s an opportunity to use technology to improve farm productivity, optimize resource use and increase crop yields to combat rising food insecurity. We’re fully committed to supporting agricultural transformation starting in Kenya – and the rest of Africa – and more critically, the innovators who are key drivers of this digital transformation,” continued Abdella.
According to AGRA, smallholder farmers currently make up 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population, contributing some 90 percent of food production. However, these farmers are not currently reaching their full potential, challenged by limited access to markets, high cost of finance, low-yielding seeds and farm inputs, which leads to lower levels of productivity.
For this reason, the One Million Farmers Platform is prioritizing digital solutions in extension, financial services, markets and data-driven applications, helping Africa to capture the current US$300 billion food market, which is projected to be worth $1 trillion by 2030.