I am Michael Nkonu and I’ve just joined GSMA in December 2012 as the Agriculture Programme Specialist for the mAgri Programme. I will be supporting agricultural content development for the mFarmer Initiative projects implemented across several countries. It is interesting to work again in development communications, particularly agricultural knowledge and information dissemination using ICTs for smallholders. It’s exactly 10 years ago when I first started working in this area. Then, ICTs were on the rise in Africa, but not to the extent witnessed today. Our efforts at the time were limited to CD-ROMs and knowledge centres where farmers can walk into and access information on computers and leaflets made available at the centre.
The terrain has changed so much in just a decade. Currently on average, Africa has about 70% mobile penetration rate. This obviously makes mobile telephony an indispensable component of agricultural development in Africa. Considering that agriculture remains the backbone of the majority of African economies, mobile technology is set to play a major role in agricultural and socio-economic development in the continent.
My experience in development work across Africa spans a couple of years and across several countries. Prior to joining GSMA, I worked for Fairtrade as the Executive Director for Africa covering some 29 countries and supporting market access for over 700,000 smallholders across the continent. While my time at Fairtrade Africa focused on market access and favourable trading terms for the poor, it nevertheless emphasized the significant role that timely and accurate information plays in the overall scheme of development and livelihoods improvement. Many farmers lack access to timely, reliable and relevant information at affordable cost. This is further worsened by the often limited and sometimes inefficient national extension systems in most developing countries. Ultimately, all this continues to contribute to low productivity, low market prices and poor household incomes for thousands of farm families globally. Mobile agricultural programmes will offer the opportunity to leverage the increasing mobile technology penetration in the developing world to improve agricultural productivity, food security and contribute towards livelihoods improvement for those at the bottom of the pyramid.
I am looking forward to an exciting time in GSMA and in employing mobile technology to support agricultural development and livelihoods improvement in developing countries. Will you join us in making a change?