Focusing on everything from e-commerce, to information, to supply chain management, to IoT, 82 African agri-tech startups are spread widely across the continent, a new report has stated.
According to the ‘Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018’, in all, 16 African countries play host to tech startups active in the agricultural space.
The leading markets are Nigeria and Kenya, who jointly account for 46.4 per cent of the total amount of startups. Ghana is next with 14.7 per cent. These top three markets make up 61.1 per cent of the overall total.
But there is also significant activity elsewhere. South Africa has 12.2 per cent of Africa’s agri-tech startups, while Uganda and Zimbabwe each have four. There are also startups in The Gambia, Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Somalia, Egypt, Mali and Cameroon.
Kenya’s pioneering role
Kenya was the pioneer of agri-tech in Africa. Back in 2010-2011, the continent’s first wave of agri-tech startups sprung up in the East African country, carving out a new niche for innovation.
A country where farming is deeply entrenched in the national identity - everyone owns, or aspires to own, a shamba - Kenyan entrepreneurs personally understood the obstacles to prosperous farming and set about addressing them using the increasingly prevalent mobile and online technologies available.
A new genre of information and knowledge sharing platform was born: even the rural subsistence farmer could get answers to his farming concerns via SMS and save or improve his harvest; smallholder farmers suddenly had access to new markets at fair prices via the internet, rather than relying on sly middlemen.
By the end of 2013, entrepreneurs in a couple of other countries had begun to join the party. Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa had all seen the odd agri-tech startup launch; but still seven of the 13 agri-tech startups operating in Africa were based in Kenya.
While Kenya has continued to boast a strong agri-tech entrepreneurship space in the following years, since 2015 West Africa - Nigeria in particular - has suddenly come onboard.
Between 2015 and 2017, 16 agri-tech startups launched in Nigeria (only three pre-date 2015). Nigeria now ties with Kenya for the number of agri-tech startups active in the two countries; and will almost certainly overtake Kenya by the end of 2018 given the sheer rate of new ventures launching.
Next door to Nigeria, Ghana has quietly developed its own agri-tech market - the third largest on the continent.
And so, while Kenya might be to thank for the emergence of agri-tech in Africa, West Africa seems to be taking over the reins.