Archive

Posts Tagged ‘West Africa’

Is Digital Transformation in Nigerian Agriculture a Myth or Reality?

31 July 2018 1 comment

There is a lot of hype about digital agriculture as the ‘next big thing’ after crude oil in Nigeria. Currently, there is hardly any debate on agricultural development in the Nigerian news and on social media platforms without the use of buzz words such as ‘digital disruption’ or ‘digital transformation’ in describing the future of Nigerian agriculture. But what are these digital innovations causing all the hype? They are digital platforms, developed over the past five years by start-ups, established by young Nigerian entrepreneurs. While some start-ups are self-funded, most have benefited from international funding and incubation programmes provided by the growing number of tech-hubs across Nigeria (see Figure 1) [1] [2].

Figure 1: Number of active tech hubs in West Africa. Source: GSMA (2018a)

The digital platforms currently mainstreamed into the Nigerian agricultural sector mainly utilise mobile applications, web applications and short messaging service (SMS). These platforms are used to provide a range of transactional and information services which can be grouped into four main business models:

  1. Crowdfarming: A venture capital model that sources investment capital to fund several farm enterprises [3].
  2. Agricultural advisory service: This model uses mobile apps, SMS and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to provide tailored information to farmers in all stages of the value chain.
  3. Online farm management information system: This offers a platform for farm owners to provide data about their farms and receive location-specific recommendations.
  4. Online agro-trading: These platforms serve as an avenue for farmers and other value chain actors to advertise their agricultural products to potential buyers.

As research on agro-digital platforms in Nigeria is still at a nascent stage, the magnitude of impact relative to platform usage is still unclear. However, some assumptions are currently driving the perception that these innovations would digitally transform Nigerian agriculture. Two of these assumptions are:

Assumption 1: With the widespread adoption of mobile devices in Nigeria the rural population, who make up the largest share of stakeholders in agriculture, can now participate in the emerging digital agricultural platform economy. In reality, mobile network infrastructures in rural Nigeria are weak or non-existent in some cases. Actively engaging with these platforms requires strong mobile network and reliable internet connection to download apps or access web platforms. 2G remains the predominant mobile network broadband in Nigeria while 3G coverage is centralised in big cities, especially Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt (see Figure 2) [3]. Also, the signal strength of both 2G and 3G networks ranges from medium to weak as we move from the urban centres to rural areas – where most farmers are located. This discrimination in mobile network coverage further reinforces the digital divide between the rural and urban population [4], and also shows what groups are more likely to benefit from the growing platform economy in Nigeria.

Figure 2: Mobile network coverage maps (Nigeria) for 2G and 3G respectively. Source: GSMA (2018b)

Assumption 2:  If we assume that farmers have reliable mobile networks and internet access which allows them to download mobile apps or access web platforms, the second assumption is that farmers have the technical skills to use these platforms. Yet most farmers are not ‘tech-savvy’ and some of these digital platforms tend to be different from the conventional voice and SMS platforms with which farmers are more familiar. Not only does this serve as a constraint to fully actualise the affordances of these platforms, it has also resulted in the emergence of ‘digital intermediaries’. These digital intermediaries either help farmers to gain access to digital platforms by performing more skill-intensive tasks such as downloading apps and creating user profiles, or they perform the functions of traditional agricultural intermediaries such as: aggregating produce, standardising and marketing produce on digital platforms, independent of farmers’ involvement on the platform itself. While this is not a bad thing, it is important to understand the role and impact of digital intermediaries in influencing value capture and value sharing along digitally-enabled agricultural value chains.

Transformation is a process and there is great potential for digital transformation in Nigerian agriculture. However, it is said that the apps won’t plough the field [4]; neither would the apps build roads to connect farmers to markets. While the digital tools to facilitate the transformation process already exist, poor infrastructure and digital skill gaps still serve as constraints to actualising the transformational potential of digital innovations in agriculture [5]. To move from ‘potential’ to ‘actual’ transformation requires investment in ICT infrastructures, road networks, electricity, and digital literacy; as well as an enabling policy environment which supports upcoming agro-digital entrepreneurs [6].

Reference

[1] GSMA (2018a) The Mobile Economy: West Africa. GSMA, London https://www.gsmaintelligence.com/research/?file=e568fe9e710ec776d82c04e9f6760adb&download

[2] David-West, O., Umukoro, I.O. and Onuoha, R.O. (2018) Platforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: startup models and the role of business incubation, Journal of Intellectual Capital, 19 (3): 581-616 https://doi.org/10.1108/JIC-12-2016-0134

[3] GSMA (2018b) Mobile Coverage Maps. GSMA, London https://www.mobilecoveragemaps.com/africa

[4] Naruka, P.S., Verma, S., Sarangdevot, S.S., Pachauri, C.P., Kerketta, S. and Singh, J.P. (2017) A study on role of WhatsApp in agriculture value chains, Asian Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology 20 (1): 1-11

[5] Deichmann, U., Goyal, A. and Mishra, D., 2016. Will Digital Technologies Transform Agriculture in Developing Countries? The World Bank, Washington, DC

[6] Akanbi, B.E. and Akanbi, C.O. (2012) Bridging the digital divide and the impact on poverty in Nigeria, Computing, Information Systems & Development Informatics, 3 (4): 83-85

Advertisements

Mobile Phone Use in West Africa: Gambian Statistics

30 January 2011 9 comments

This entry reports findings from a survey of nearly 400 mobile phone users in The Gambia conducted by Fatim Badjie, who recently participated in Manchester’s MSc in ICTs for Development.

Its findings fall into six main areas:

Ownership and Costs: 83% of phone users owned their mobile; roughly 70% said that it was cheap to use a mobile.

Mobile Usage: 82% said the most-used facility on their phone was calls; 12% said it was texting; 3% said it was Internet browsing.  Overall, 38% said the service they enjoyed most was texting; 15% said Internet browsing; 8% said conference calls; 5% said video calls.  47% share their mobile with other people, sharing with an average of 3.1 other people.  That means, overall, the average mobile is used by 2.5 people (i.e. shared with 1.5 other people).  On average, users said they used their mobiles 28 times per day, and two-thirds use their mobile at least 10 times per day.

Availability and Issues: roughly 60% of users said they always had a signal and that services were available even in “inconvenient” locations (though of course Gambia is a small country).  Only 30% reported the mobile was always effective for communication and roughly one third reported they felt mobile use had become a burden to them – mostly financially but also socially or personally.  For the 55% of users who wanted improvements, these almost all related to getting 100% network coverage in the country, or wanting cheaper prices.

Impacts and Benefits: 78% felt they benefited from having a mobile particularly due to low cost of calls.  31% felt having a mobile helped them to make or get money, for example through calls from customers to go and collect money owing or, more often, calling family/friends for money (“money calls”).  58% thus felt they had come to depend on their mobile, and 78% said they could not see themselves living without one.

In terms of male-female differences:

– No real difference in rates of ownership, rates and scope of phone sharing, difficulties experienced, or dependency on mobiles.

– Slight tendency for women to have been using fixed lines rather than telecentres as a prior means of communication.

– Women use mobiles a little more than men on average per day (28.6 vs. 26.6 times).

– Less use of mobiles for Internet browsing by women than men; more use of phones for texting.

– More men (38%) than women (24%) said the mobile helped them get money and resources, though women used phones proportionately more for “money calls” than men.

My commentary would be that, overall, this is a reminder of how mature the mobile market is getting in Africa with very high rates of ownership, very high rates of usage, and signs of movement beyond basic calls/SMS: at least 15% going online via their mobiles, at least 13% using video/conference calls.  With roughly one-third saying they use mobiles to make or get money, it looks like quite a valuable financial tool: so embedded that nearly fourth-fifths of users couldn’t imagine life without it, including some who see mobiles as a “necessary burden”.

ITU estimates for 2009 (the year prior to the survey) there were 84 mobile subscriptions per 100 population in The Gambia.  Even allowing for calculations to convert from subscription data to actual ownership and use (see earlier blog entry), this means phone users were by far the bulk of the Gambian population during this survey (so skews compared to the overall population will be present but probably limited).  Given the rates of sharing reported it means that access to a mobile is virtually universal (though it must also mean that many people share their phone with others who already have one).

Noting exclusion from the survey of women (and men) who don’t use mobiles, there was relatively little difference in ownership and usage patterns between men and women.  Is that, too, a sign of market maturity?

Finally, a reminder that, even in a small country there can be significant locational differences and that “market maturity” has a rural—urban axis.  Users were surveyed in seven different parts of The Gambia but the table below compares some of the key findings for those surveyed in the capital, Banjul, and those surveyed in Bansang, a small town three-quarters of the way up-country.

  Banjul (urban) Bansang (rural)
Ownership 100% 32%
Cheap to use? 66% 84%
Access Internet via mobile 17% 0%
Use SMS texting 69% 4%
Share your mobile? 24% 86%
Average uses per day 39.8 6.7
Available in inconvenient locations? 75% 12%
Main problem (of those reporting a problem) Cost (87%) Network availability (98%)
Help you to get money/resources? 28% 40%
Calls for money 14% 44%
Live without mobile? 52% 20%

 

The data show some not unexpected differences.  In the rural location, there was much less ownership of mobiles and much more sharing; much less use of non-call services and generally much less daily use of the mobile.  Network availability is more of an issue in the rural area, but the mobile seems to be more useful for getting money and far fewer users in the rural area can imagine life without it.

You can access the results of the survey by clicking here: they also include more Gambia-specific questions about operators, services, and awareness of institutions.  Note the breakdown-by-location is very lengthy, and not provided in this document.

%d bloggers like this: