Rwanda: PM - African Farmers Need to Adopt ICT

African farmers need the right skills and approaches to increase their production, modernise agriculture and manage the risks they face, the Prime Minister has said.

Edouard Ngirente made the remarks as he officiated at the 4th Malabo Montpellier Forum in Kigali on Tuesday, which focused on using ICT to transform Africa's agriculture.

"This requires our highest attention as governments, policy-makers, researchers, entrepreneurs and development partners," Ngirente said.

The forum was guided by a technical report prepared by experts grouped under what is known as the Malabo Montpellier Panel, a group of international agriculture experts who guide policy choices that seek to improve food and nutritional security in Africa.

With only six per cent of the land in Africa under irrigation, according to African Union's Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, the continent's farmers depend on erratic rains for harvest.

Using technologies, experts argue, would de-risk the sector and ensure sustainable food production.

Agriculture accounts for around 32 per cent of Africa's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Ngirente said.

"Therefore, one way of developing the continent is increasing investment in this sector," he observed.

The continent faces a funding gap of between $23 billion and $31 billion per annum to transform the agriculture sector, according to the African Development Bank.

"The use of ICT in transforming agricultural sector is of paramount importance. ICT would allow farmers and other agriculture sector stakeholders to access accurate and timely information for decision-making in the sector," he said.

Rwanda seeks to achieve an upper-middle-income status by 2035 and high-income status by 2050.

The transformation of agriculture into a productive, high value, market oriented sector, with forward linkages to other sectors is one of the important pillars in the country's vision.

To this end, Ntirenganya noted, an inclusive national ICT strategy for Rwanda's agriculture sector was developed.

The strategy aims to increase efficiency of the support given to farmers, he said.

"In collaboration with our partners, we are developing a digital project with various mobile services including weather, crop calendar and fall army worm monitoring system. This project has an objective of providing rural farmers agricultural information and knowledge to help increase their income," he said.

Joachim von Braun, Co-Chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel and Director for the Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn in Germany, said that fast transformation of industries and agriculture as well as services offer great opportunities for economic growth and employment.

"The applications of digitisation in mobility, transport, especially in agriculture and food, but also in the health sector, are enormously promising for emerging economies in Africa," Braun said.

In Rwanda, the internet penetration rate increased to more than 52 per cent in 2018, up from 7.9 per cent in 2010, while the phone penetration rate is more than 77 per cent.

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