Agritech Startups Are Unlocking The Potential Of Africa’s Largest Economic Sector

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Agritech startups
Agritech startups such as Farmcrowdy are empowering farmers across Africa. Photo – Nairametrics

Technology is helping to unlock the potential of the agricultural sector in Africa, as agritech startups from the continent show growth while making an impact on African communities.

As Africa’s most dominant economic sector, agriculture accounts for 15 percent of the continent’s GDP, or over $100 billion annually, according to McKinsey.

An estimated 70 percent of Africa’s people depend directly on agriculture for their livelihood, FT reports. Tech is unlocking a great deal of potential within this important sector through disruption, with agritech startups providing the solutions to challenges that have traditionally held the farming industry back.

From drone technology and artificial intelligence to mobile apps that assist farmers across the continent, Africans are embracing tech to enhance production and ensure a more profitable future while maintaining food security.

Kenyan apps such as FarmDrive, M-Farm and iCow assist with data collection, messaging and education dedicated to the farming industry, while other platforms such as Farmerconnect help with weather forecasting, and Nigeria’s FarmCrowdy empowers farmers by connecting them with investors through a digital platform in order to increase their production.

The interest in Africa’s agritech startup potential is not only limited to those on the continent, as the recent Seedstars World competition in Switzerland demonstrated.

Ghanaian agritech startup Agrocenta won the world’s biggest startup competition in emerging markets, beating 64 other tech startup finalists from around the world, according to Techmoran.

The startup has developed a solution to empower smallholder farmers through innovative technology. They connect smallholder farmers to an online market while creating transportation and logistics solutions that enable farmers to sell their products and deliver them seamlessly.

Agritech startups showing impressive growth

The fact that Agrocenta beat out of so many other high-quality tech startups is testament to the rise of agritech in Africa, and recent research confirms the growth of disruption in agriculture thanks to technology.

The number of startups operating in the agritech market grew 110 percent over the past two years, with more than $19 million invested in the sector during that period, according to a recent report by Disrupt Africa entitled “Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018”.

Kenya and Nigeria dominate the agritech market at the moment, with Ghana third. These three countries alone account for more than 60 percent of the active agritech startups in Africa.

Of the 82 agritech startups active in Africa at the start of the year, 32.9 percent aimed to provide e-commerce options for the agricultural industry, with other popular tech solutions in the agritech ecosystem focused on fintech solutions for farmers or information and knowledge-sharing platforms for the benefit of those in the industry.

Another sign that agritech is expanding as a sector is the recent establishment of an accelerator focused on the niche tech market.

In April Nigerian tech hub Wennovation Hub launched its own agritech incubation program, which provides training and mentorship to agritech startups in addition to $15,000 in investment, according to Techloy.

The six-week initiative is delivered by the Lagos-based tech hub in partnership with LoftyInc Capital Management and Africa Exchange Holdings (AFEX), with the mandate of supporting and potentially funding a number of tech startups that are or will impact agriculture in Africa.

Africa can be the breadbasket of the world, with its abundance of arable land and a youthful workforce emerging across the continent. Perhaps the innovative agritech startups with their impressive platforms and solutions will unlock Africa’s agricultural potential at a time when food security is a major concern globally.