The current, very close association between African countries and mobile innovation has left most questioning what impact it will make on existing infrastructure. The influence that technical and mobile innovation is making is seen most notably through the lives of the people it affects. These kinds of changes are particularly prevalent in the agricultural industries of African countries.
Enabling Financial Inclusion
Money transfers with the use of mobile money agents and in-store withdrawals have created easier access to banking services for those without banking facilities. This is particularly pertinent to Africa’s farming industry because it allows smallholder farmers to save lump sums of money, receive payments quickly in times of need and pay for agricultural inputs. It gives the farm, as a business, access to payment structures for employees and supplies them with a greater, more reliable connection to distributors and direct consumers. M-Pesa, a widely adopted Kenyan platform implemented by Safaricom, allows workers and traders alike to collect payments at selected vendors. The use of independent finance services means fewer fees than traditional banking models and access to remittance for those previously denied.
Connecting Farmers & Traders
The creating and testing of online platforms for the communication of farmers and traders has been a natural next step from agricultural financial inclusion. The overall aim of mobile trading is to link smallholder farmers directly with potential buyers through a platform. This helps them to secure higher and better prices for their produce.The biggest issues these platforms currently address is the poor communication between export agents, farmers and producers. Products like 2Kuze and Esoko focus on the financial fairness of these processes. Linking existing agents with previously anonymous smallholdings mean farmers are offered competitive prices of which they are able to choose the highest. Giving both farmers and traders a wider reach of the market and access to produce.
These processes for submitting and bidding on tenders for food distribution, processing and exporting, create a more competitive and efficient agricultural supply chain. In turn helping agricultural workers and often female-run farms in rural areas to exchange goods and services to improve their communities’ livelihoods.
New mobile technologies give farmers the power of information.
Empowerment Through Information
For many, access and trading mean nothing when their production and growth process is continually unsuccessful. New mobile technologies give farmers the power of information. With features ranging from weather tracking to information sharing, these products are inclusive and varied enough to provide the right assistance for various scenarios. Information sharing is particularly valuable as it creates community upliftment, quick access to information and upskilling of young farmers. Technologies like farmerconnect and iCow supply information to farmers about weather, pricing trends and contextual updates. Done using agencies and farming networks, it not only allows farmers to track and connect but also empowers them.
The greatest barrier faced in this industry is access to solutions without reliable internet and smartphones. This is slowly being catered for with the inclusion of feature phones using SMS solutions. However, adoption and education are still slow in the more rural areas, most farmers are averse to learning or struggle to get their workers to accept new payment methods. It must be noted that one of the largest benefits borne from these kind of advancements is the inclusion of female farmers. Often denied financial support from banks or unable to leave their farms, these technologies allow them to run their farms independently.
While there is still a long way to go in terms adoption and reach, these platforms and initiatives are slowly stretching the reach of technology and banking services to the sectors that need it most.
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