Monday, July 4, 2022

FG To Deploy Digital Tech To Enhance Nigeria’s Agric Sector – Abdullahi

The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi.
The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi.

As part of efforts to promote Nigeria’s digital economy, the director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has revealed plans by the Federal Government to deploy digital technologies to enhance Nigeria’s agricultural development to ensure food security in the country.

Speaking during a public sector media webinar roundtable discussion, themed “Digital Transformation for Food Security in Africa”, he said it was a part of the government’s effort and commitment to reinforce and foster the digital transformation of the agricultural sector to support food security in Africa. 

According to him, with the right policies, innovation, financing and investment, Africa’s agriculture could be transformed into a powerhouse to not only feed a growing population but to create decent employment for millions of young people.

Represented by the agency’s director of information technology infrastructural solutions (ITIS), Dr. Abdullahi Gambo, the NITDA boss stated that digital agricultural transformation should be a priority on the policy agenda of African governments in the quest to meet the challenges of food and nutrition, insecurity, climate change, youth unemployment and overall economic growth, noting that it has been projected that the total worth of the African food industry will hit the $1 trillion mark by 2030.

“Agricultural transformation remains one of Africa’s most pressing priorities but has been difficult to achieve. By all statistics, Africa needs to triple its current levels of agricultural productivity to meet the continent’s food and nutrition security. But we have the resources and potential to feed the whole world not just Africa while boosting the continent’s economic growth,” he said.

Abdullahi further revealed that about 82 million hectares out of Nigeria’s total land area of 91 million hectares were found to be arable, with only 42 per cent of this area currently being cultivated, according to research. He then advised that the untapped potential of the growing youth population which constitutes over 50 per cent of the estimated 200 million population – with about 200 million mobile subscribers, 150 million active internet subscription/users and a 42 per cent broadband penetration – could be a game-changer for the agriculture sector.

“In Nigeria, the importance of agriculture in boosting the economy, creating more jobs, reducing poverty, growing nutritious food to feed the population, exporting surplus and safeguarding the country’s environment cannot be overstated. I am convinced that agriculture, agribusiness and food sectors remain key pillars of Nigeria’s economy and will be essential to the country’s full recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and future food security,” he added.

Abdullahi noted that technologies ranging from SMS, USSD, web and mobile to the blockchain, robotics, geoinformation technologies, remote sensing technology, IoT, big data, analytics, AI, machine and deep learning, among others, present a huge opportunity for Africa and, particularly Nigeria, to change the narrative of cases that present the potential of digital technologies, research and innovations at addressing these challenges.

The DG avowed that NITDA in collaboration with relevant stakeholders had developed the Nigeria Digital Agriculture Strategy (NDAS) with a vision to make Nigeria one of the top three (3) most food-secure countries in Africa and amongst the top 20 largest exporters of standard agricultural produce by 2030 through the use and application of digital technologies and innovations.

“NDAS is at the heart of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) and the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) for agriculture transformation. NDEPS is the Federal Government’s policy for accelerating digital transformation in every sector of the economy while NESP takes agriculture as a mainstay for economic recovery, diversification and job creation after Covid-19 plunged the country into recession.

“The plan proposed a mass agriculture programme to bring 20,000 to 100,000 hectares of new farmland under cultivation in every State of the Federation. The aim is to create 5 million job opportunities, directly and indirectly spanning the entire agricultural value chain, from ‘farm to table’. The policy is creating an enabling environment for the rapid deployment of digital solutions in the nation’s agri-food businesses,” the DG said.

Abdullahi also revealed that to implement the policy and plan, further digitise the agriculture sector, address obvious challenges, exploit the opportunities, create massive jobs and accelerate economic diversification and growth, the agency has come up with the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA). 

“NAVSA is a technology and innovation-driven agricultural initiative aimed at addressing low agriculture productivity and other challenges.  Agriculture financing and repayment difficulties are being addressed through the introduction of closed and open wallet systems on mobile payment platforms.

“NAVSA is designed to allow every ecosystem player to participate based on win-win business models to create far-reaching network effects and offer values that never existed before. The concept of an adopted village implies that a farmer will have to be adopted before having access to all the benefits the platform offers.

“So far, we have adopted 765 farmers across 68 local government areas in 4 states. Consequently, this has created 2,500 jobs. Our target is to have adopted farmers from all over the country.”

In her remarks, the country manager of Microsoft, Mrs. Ola Williams said agriculture is now the main driver of employment in Nigeria as such it is important to explore ways to make farming in Nigeria to become more profitable and to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider farming as viable means of livelihood.

She stated that Microsoft is in partnership with the private sector and NITDA to leverage all the platforms provided by NITDA in digitising the agricultural sector.

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