African universities urged to expand farming tech efforts

African Development Bank head says continent’s universities must focus on areas such as drones and AI to boost agriculture

August 15, 2018

The African Development Bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina, has said that universities in Africa need to adapt their curricula and focus their tech-transfer efforts on new technology-based methods for farming.

Mr Adesina said that there was “no reason” for Africa to import $35 billion (£28 billion) worth of food a year, according to Business Live. He said that technology transfer by universities was “needed immediately” and should be a focus for African institutions.

“Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers,” Mr Adesina said.

He added that universities should also focus on agribusiness entrepreneurship for young people, focusing on application, rather than theory.

If Africa is able to harness the available technologies – such as drones, automated tractors, AI, robotics and blockchain technology – with the right government policies, then it can “rapidly raise agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers”, he said.

He argued that evidence from countries such as Nigeria, where he was previously minister for agriculture, showed that “technology plus strong government backing” was already producing positive results.

“It is more likely that the future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drones to...monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest,” according to Mr Adesina.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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