Top 8 Quotes from “African Farmers in The Digital Age: How Digital Solutions Can Enable Rural Development”

“African Farmers in the Digital Age” is a special edition anthology, published in partnership with Foreign Affairs that brings together the views of twenty leading thinkers on all aspects of food systems, smallholder farming, and the transformative opportunity presented by digital technology. The authors of the essays in this collection paint a picture of what a thriving African food system can accomplish and lay out some concrete steps for building that system. According to the editor, Gideon Rose, “From mobile phones to big data, nutrition to climate change, the collection covers it all, with authors who have something powerful to say and the authority to be heard.” Here are some of the most insightful and salient quotes to give you a taste of the wisdom the anthology has to offer:

  1. “The combination of digital technology and human creativity in deploying it will revolutionize life for Africa’s farmers by overcoming isolation, speeding up change, and taking success to scale.” — Kofi Annan, Sir Gordon Conway and Sam Dryden

Access to digital technology can make the distance between a remote farmer and the market even shorter than a straight line. Whereas many smallholders live several hours by foot from most markets, mobile platforms can share market price information or connect farmers to buyers in an instant.

  1. “It is time to change the way we think. Farmers are not the cause of Africa’s poverty; they are a potential solution. They are key to creating the future envisioned by the SDGs.” — Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

Check out this blog “Agriculture in Every SDG” to find out how agriculture is a central element for achieving each and every one of the recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  You might also want to have a look at the report “No Ordinary Matter” – the Montpellier Panel shows several ways that farmers can help to improve their soil quality and even sequester carbon!

soil carbon sequestration

  1. “If Africa’s evolving food system leaves its smallholder farmers behind, the continent will not reach its immense potential.” — Sir Gordon Conway and Sam Dryden

As the backbone of most African economies and the livelihoods of the world’s poor, farmers are indeed, and always have been, agents of change. They just need a little encouragement, or the right types of supports and enabling environments. Favorable policies and regulatory frameworks that enable the use and penetration of mobile phone or internet usage in rural areas is a great start. See the section on ‘enabling environments’ in Agriculture for Impact’s Sustainable Intensification database.

  1. “Agriculture is not a way of life… Agriculture is a business.” – Akin Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and former Minister of Agriculture, Nigeria

Farming is back-breaking labour. Literally. Most farmers in Africa today have very limited access to improved farming equipment or machinery, which means they use centuries-old tools such as the hand hoe and animal powered plows. And they don’t do this just for sport. But to be better businessmen and businesswomen, they need access to a variety of resources – finance, education, inputs – all of which can be provided or accelerated by the use of mobile money or agricultural extension platforms.

  1. “If we empower smallholder farmers to achieve their aspirations, they will do the heavy lifting of development themselves.” – Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution and former Minister of Agriculture, Rwanda

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is proof that with the right support and encouragement, farmers can and will lift themselves out of poverty. From AGRA’s soil health program that teaches farmers on how to improve soil fertility or its market development program that helps small business to grow, farmers across Africa are making significant strides. Digital technology will only speed up the process.

6. “Digital technology’s promise is not one-size-fits-all. Designing and implementing sustainable technology solutions requires an understanding of local mores and unique community hurdles, in particular a sensitivity to gender-related issues.” — Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme

As Ertharin goes on to explain, women are involved in every stage of the food system from producers to consumers, but they often have little say in decision-making or access to the information and tools that could improve their contributions. While mobile phones can help women to overcome social barriers and gain financial independence, women in rural areas are 50% less likely to own mobile phones than men. Building technological solutions must begin to bridge not only the digital, but also the gender, divide.

7. “Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural transformation will be shaped by sustainable intensification, adaptation to climate change, and the rise of digital technology.” – Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development, Imperial College London and Director of Agriculture for Impact

Climate change is a real and present threat to African food security that is only set to get worse. Compounded with population growth, severe soil degradation across much of the continent, weak and disconnected markets, and limited access to up to date weather information, the situation could be very bleak. Better access to information through digital technology platforms however can help farmers to overcome some of these barriers to adaptation and growth.


8. “Ultimately, it’s the way human beings, with our vast stores of ingenuity, deploy the power of the technology and tools that makes the biggest difference.” – Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest investors in African agriculture – from improving farmer productivity to helping them secure louder voices and greater political rights – they too are making inroads on better technology and placing it in the hands of farmers.  The 2016 Annual Gates Letter  asks what superpowers you wish you had? Bill and Melinda answered “more energy and more time.” With more energy and more time, farmers could run more successful businesses (just think of what satellite-positioning and precision farming already does for farming in developed countries), electricity could pave the way to a better education for children, and give women the time to invest in small businesses of their own.



  1. your site is really nice !! and thanks for sharing the quotes

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