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IoT can boost agri in Africa

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The Internet of Things has the potential to increase agriculture in Africa by 70% by 2050, a figure similar to which the demand for food is set to grow in the same period.

It is estimated that, through technological innovation, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to increase agricultural productivity in Africa by 70% by 2050. This is exactly the figure by which demand for food in Africa is set to increase based on population growth. This is according to a Deloitte US report on the impact of IoT on agriculture, titled Dirt to Data: The second green revolution and the Internet of Things.

Agriculture is seen as a key economic driver by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which holds its Africa regional meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on 11-13 May. Under the theme ‘Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation, the 26th WEF on Africa will convene regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to discuss the digital economy and agree on strategic actions that can deliver shared prosperity across the continent.

WEF has identified the IoT as one of 21 ‘tipping points’, when a specific technological shift enters mainstream society. For the IoT, WEF estimates that this point will be reached by 2022. Given rising agriculture demand and the associated resource scarcity challenges, the IoT will ensure that the tipping point is reached sooner rather than later.

Carlton Jones, Agriculture Sector Leader for Deloitte Consulting, says the drought in Southern Africa caused by the El Niño phenomenon resulted in lower than expected crop yields. “To some extent, the crop failures reported could have been avoided through use of technology that is only now becoming available. Technological innovation within the agricultural sector could have helped ensure that farmers were better prepared in dealing with the current drought by informing them of what to plant and where to plant it given the El Nino effect on the region. “While these technological advances may help farmers mitigate against bad yields, implementing such technologies remain fairly expensive and may not yet be feasible for small holders  farmers, but rather is likely to be implemented via multinational corporations at present.

Enhanced data translates into better products being developed for the market therefore ensuring all round benefits.  “The IoT has the potential to ensure that all stakeholders within the agricultural value chain, whether large company, smallholder farmer, food manufacturer, retailer, or consumer are able to maximise onvalue”, adds Jones.

“The report notes that the IoT has proven its value in numerous industries and that the main question for stakeholders in the nascent agricultural IoT ecosystem is how to commercialise and scale the technologies, and who will pay for their development and deployment”, says Jones.

He adds that these are the strategic issues, which he would like to see WEF apply its collective mind to across the agricultural value chain. Technological innovation tied in with data analysis has the potential to ensure that food production will be able to keep pace with population growth globally.

“Despite the green revolution having being modelled in the USA, an African green revolution is yet to take place. Such a revolution will take into account localised factors, learning’s from other developing economies and use the IoT as an enabler to enhance the sector as a whole,” says Jones.

This revolution is one driven less by new techniques with consequences of resource depletion and soil degradation, but rather by technology which gives farmers the data to help make better choices. It will likely be grounded in the use of data to inform more efficient and effective farming practices and drive associated environmental and social benefits.

A wave of innovations, from satellite geo-mapping by NASA to the use of drones to collect aerial data, provides insights into the health of the land on a real-time basis. Technologies such as advanced sensors and monitoring equipment can now allow farmers to monitor crops more precisely and continuously, thereby enabling more strategic decision-making to increase productivity with reduced impacts on the environment, thereby doing more with less.

“The uses of these technologies cover the entire spectrum, from more productive farming techniques to improved nutrition. Sensors attached to livestock give early warning of illness, enabling prevention and thereby increasing milk yields. Such a targeted approach to veterinary care can have the added benefit of reducing the need for herd-wide preventative antibiotics, which have been shown to contribute to drug-resistant bacteria,” says Jones.

One method whereby smallholder farmers can benefit from IoT is through aggregation of their resources and equipment, something already implemented in South Africa.

Additional value can be created when one considers the role of agriculture in emerging economies. In these economies, the IoT can provide value not only through increased resource efficiency and crop productivity, but also by providing social value and financial benefits for smallholder farmers.

Collaborations like these to deploy IoT technologies will be increasingly vital if we are to put the world’s farms on track to feed the estimated 11 billion people who will inhabit the earth by 2050.

“Despite the challenges,” says Jones, “there is cause for optimism.”

Africa News

Africa phones go flat

Africa’s mobile phone market declined 2.1% quarter on quarter in Q3 2018 according to the latest figures from IDC.

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The global technology research and consulting firm newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows overall shipments for the quarter totalled 52.6 million units, with feature phone shipments falling 2.7% QoQ and smartphone shipments declining 1.3% over the same period.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Itel) led the feature phone space in Q3 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.2%. Nokia was next in line with 11.7% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.9%, 21.7%, and 10.2%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone market with 37.2% share, followed by Transsion (21.0%) and Huawei (13.0%).

There were differing fortunes in the region’s three major markets, with Nigeria suffering a heavy 11.6% QoQ decline in mobile phone shipments, while South Africa and Kenya saw respective QoQ growth of 8.5% and 7.9% in Q3 2018.

“The decline in Nigeria stemmed from a slowdown in government spending, ongoing warfare in the country’s northern states, and market uncertainty in the lead up to elections,” says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. “In South Africa, the market’s growth was spurred by the penetration of low-end devices from brands such as Mobicel, Mint, and Nokia, while the launch of entry-level smartphones helped drive growth in Kenya despite increases in taxes and fuel prices placing a significant burden on disposable income in the country.”

While feature phones remain steadfastly popular across Africa, particularly in more rural areas, consumers are increasingly being attracted by smartphone offerings from Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei, which are actively targeting feature-oriented customers at more economical price points.

“There is a new wave of Chinese brands aggressively pursuing growth opportunities in the region, while the more-established Huawei is also accelerating its marketing efforts and expanding its distribution budget,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “These brands have quickly progressed along the learning curve and evolved their offerings to perfectly reflect the realities of the region by addressing the diverse pricing and feature needs of the consumer base.”

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to reach 58 million units in Q4 2018, spurred by the festive season and online consumer events such as Black Friday. The introduction of more affordable smartphones in the African market will help drive progress in this space over the coming quarters, while the share of feature phones will decline steadily as the transition to smartphones gathers momentum.

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Mobile money to cross borders

Orange and MTN launch pan-African mobile money interoperability to scale up mobile financial services across Africa.

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Two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group, today announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost.

Mowali will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets. Mowali is ready to enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.

Mowali is a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.

The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants.  Mowali enables money to circulate freely between mobile money accounts from any operators in all countries.  From the customer’s point of view, this means “I can pay or receive money anywhere from my mobile account regardless of my operator”. The system will unlock further innovation in the digital financial space within the continent. 

For Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, “by providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa. Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange’s ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services. “

“One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial services in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective. Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is therefore an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond. Thus giving our customers access to a bright, digital future.” said Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN.

The GSMA supports the Mowali initiative as interoperability at this scale is a key accelerator for both financial inclusion and Mobile Money usability across Africa.  “Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities. The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region. It demonstrates the mobile industry’s continued leadership and commitment to driving financial inclusion and economic empowerment through industry collaboration. The GSMA is proud to support its development,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.

“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome, in support of financial inclusion. With Mowali, Orange and MTN deliver a solution that will enable them, and other companies, to scale digital financial services across Africa, faster, to everyone—including the poor,” said Kosta Peric, deputy director of Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming. We’re pleased to see an implementation of Mojaloop—an open source payment platform available to operators across the sector—help achieve that.”

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