Microsoft through its 4Africa initiative has partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to make digital and training resources more accessible to small-scale farmers and businesses. This is in a bid to support digital transformation in Africa’s agribusiness sector, modernize supply chains and boost farmers’ productivity and incomes.

The partnership further aims to leverage Microsoft 4Afrika’s digital platforms and IFC’s Agribusiness Leadership Program to help small-scale farmers to strengthen farming practices. These tools and practices will also help build business professionalism and improve food security and traceability throughout the supply chain.

To kick off the initiative, a mobile platform will be piloted among farmers in Kenya, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Uganda. The first pilots aim to support 50,000 farmers and at least 50 cooperatives.

Digital technology can improve the operation of key supply chains in the food system through greater agricultural efficiencies, improved business practices, traceability, food safety and, access to finance. However, the use of digital tools in Africa’s agriculture sector remains limited, often because of infrastructure, affordability, awareness, and regulatory issues. In Africa, agribusiness contributes to about 25% of the continent’s GDP and 70% of its employment.

Commenting on the new partnership, Kendi Nderitu, Country Manager for Microsoft Kenya said, “Now more than ever, we need to pay close attention to how agri-tech organizations transform digitally, what challenges they face acquiring new technologies, and the daily challenges they may be facing in the area of digital skills development. Microsoft 4Afrika’s strategy is to invest in agri-tech to unlock Africa’s vibrant potential, accelerating innovation in agri-tech to enable data-driven farming that can optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase profitability – all while feeding a nation.”

On his part, Samuel Dzotefe, Acting Regional Industry Director Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services, Middle East & Africa said, “Digital technologies have the power to transform small-scale farming in Africa. By making digital tools more accessible to farmers, cooperatives and last-mile retailers, Microsoft and IFC can together help the agribusiness sector to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the digital economy.”

The launched partnership will also include Microsoft’s KuzaBot mobile chat platform, which will speed up and ease the dissemination of vital information to farmers on good agricultural and business practices.

IFC’s Agribusiness Leadership Program, which will be available on the Microsoft Community Training (MCT) platform, will help small businesses, aggregators, and farmer cooperatives improve their professionalism, productivity, and creditworthiness.