Agriculture is a major economic driver in Africa, and contributes at least 15% to the overall GDP of the continent. While this sector also employs as much as 65% of Africa's labour force, about 80% of its farmers operate at subsistence level and do not produce nearly as much as is needed to sell or export; thereby making this form of business unprofitable for many.
As a result of this gap in capital and infrastructure required for agriproduction, food insecurity is relatively high compared to other continents with more than 27.4% of its population classified by the World Food Programme as malnourished or on the brink of starvation.
With Africa’s population growing exponentially at an average of 3% y-o-y, it is expected that the demand for food and supplements will triple. However, the capacity to meet this demand is of major concern. A clear example is seen in countries such as Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, which have large populations of cows, but account for just 4% of the world’s total milk production due to their inability to scale production.
While the United Nations has reported that Africa will be the most severely impacted by climate change; and by 2020 between 6-20% of its people will be vulnerable to water scarcity as a result of these changes, several other issues are also of grave concern, one of which is farmers inaccessibility to required technology.
In response to this situation, there has been a spike in the number of agritech companies erupting across the continent. In 2017 over $20 million of tech capital was invested in multi-segments of the value chain from planting to storage and distribution; up by 110% recorded the previous year.
At present, more than half of the technologically inclined agriculture companies in Africa are situated in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. And companies such as Tulaa and Agrocenta, are making giant leaps towards a more digitally inclusive agricultural sector in Africa.
Although the sector is believed to have over 90% of its potential still untapped, at a total worth of $2.2billion, with the critical focus of governments and private sector players to meet the Sustainable Development Goals 2 (SDG2), these numbers are projected to improve over the next decade. A recent survey of 500 farmers within the countries listed earlier showed they recorded an average of 18-56% increase in production and revenue between 2017 and Q1 2019 with the adoption of mechanisation and technology.
As Africa has over 60% of the world’s unexploited arable land and a young workforce, this sets the continent up to be the world’s “food basket” when its governments begin to encourage scaleable farming processes. If the current growth rate in crop yield and production output is anything to go by, the sector is poised to develop by over 500% by 2030 from its 2015 value of $200 billion, making it fertile ground for investors.