Digital skills will give African women a chance…

Each year, the UN Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Day is celebrated on June 27, recognizing the important contribution of small businesses to economies around the world. It is also an opportunity to shed light on the challenges of women agripreneurs in Africa and how digital technologies can help them build successful businesses.

Agriculture and agribusiness play a key role in Africa as the main source of income and employment for rural people and the poor. In accordance with the of ONU Sustainable Development Goalswomen represent 40-50% of the total agricultural labor force in Africa and are responsible for producing 70% of food on the continent.

However, the evidence shows significant gender gaps agricultural productivity, performance and profitability in sub-Saharan Africa, where women are about 20-30% less productive than their male counterparts.

These gaps are attributable to several financial and economic challenges and constraints, including unequal access to productive resources such as land, capital, networks and credit compared to men.

Women also face knowledge and information constraints that prevent them from improving the quality, sale and delivery of their products. It is therefore essential to provide more opportunities for women in agriculture and agribusiness through strategic and tailored interventions for women.

Digital solutions in agriculture, or digital agriculture, can fill these gaps by providing opportunities for women that give them the benefits of farming and adding value.

Experts point out that digital technologies can help to improve women’s access to information, boost their business productivity and facilitate outsourcing, resource sharing and networking opportunities.

By using innovative digital strategies, such as social media platforms, women in agriculture and agribusiness can reach new customers and grow their businesses. Even farmers in the most remote locations without internet access can access targeted agricultural information via a simple text or voice message.

Digital connectivity can also improve women’s access to important agricultural information (such as market information and weather forecasts) that can help increase their yields, income and resilience to shocks.

It can also provide women-owned agricultural MSMEs with access to business opportunities offered by trade platforms, such as the recently established African Continental Free Trade Area. Digital technologies allow these companies to improve the traceability of their products with critical information on logistics and transport.

Digital Literacy

Yet women-owned agricultural enterprises in Africa – especially those in rural areas and disadvantaged backgrounds – often lack access to the training or digital skills needed to take advantage of technology and the benefits it can. to offer.

Improving women’s digital literacy capabilities can expose them to timely and relevant agricultural information. The Vodacom Foundation Women Farmers Programfor example, offers capacity building initiatives in digital literacy to help women farmers in South Africa.

So far, more than 1,300 women farmers have been trained to develop their digital skills since its pilot project in 2018 in rural areas of Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

Digitally connected women farmers can access real-time information on what their counterparts are producing in all parts of Africa, as well as access new markets and digital financial services.

With new digital skills, women farmers can transform their businesses through technology and help increase productivity and reduce poverty in Africa.

The Momentum Metropolitan Foundation (MMF) and Agri Enterprises’ women in agriculture is a three-year incubator aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in agriculture through skills enhancement, creating jobs and generating income for their families.

The program will initially recruit 60 women entrepreneurs in KwaZulu-Natal. After pitching their farm business ideas, they will receive training and mentorship on how to transform their businesses.

Improve market access

Further, the Uganda Women’s Network provides training to over 100 women in agriculture on business profiling, garden mapping and effective market research, and M-Omulimisa The initiative provides farmers with timely agricultural information and solutions in local languages ​​via mobile phones.

from Rwanda Purchase-Of-Women encouraged women farmers to adopt digital agricultural technologies for better market access. The program has been successful in providing digital platforms that connect these women to agribusiness information, financial instruments and commodity markets.

This initiative has improved the agribusiness life cycle—from planting to harvesting, processing, packaging, delivery and payment—for women farmers.

In Kenya, women working in agriculture and agribusiness have started using their smartphones to get crucial weather information that can help them properly plan appropriate planting, harvesting and processing times that maximize productivity. and production.

Women’s ability to access and effectively use digital technologies is key to solving women’s digital challenges. Evidence from the Association for Progressive Communications suggests that women have access digital platforms can also benefit their families, villages, communities and countries.

Connection and Transformation

According to Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index79% of female-owned MSMEs in South Africa have implemented online payment, which is on par with their male counterparts.

The significant transformation of digital solutions is reflected in the improved resilience and adaptability of many women-owned small businesses.

The Mastercard program is committed to connecting 25 million women entrepreneurs in Africa to the digital economy by 2025 through the provision of the tools, financial education and training and solutions they need to survive and thrive.

The program has so far helped over 3,000 women improve their business skills, start their own business and create new jobs.

The promotion of gender equality in agriculture and agribusiness in Africa through digital agriculture remains important as it is an essential element of the economic, social and political development of countries.

African economies must therefore adopt some of the existing best practices and strategies to remove the barriers that prevent women from taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digital transformation and, therefore, deepen the gender divide in agriculture and agribusiness. . DM

Dr. Mamello Nchake is a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch.

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