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US Govt, Heifer International partner to boost farmers’ digital access in Africa

Heifer International has committed to bringing at least 10 million African farmers into the digital economy as part of an ambitious public-private initiative endorsed by the White House.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled the initiative, called Mobilizing Access to the Digital Economy (MADE) Alliance: Africa, during a meeting of the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C. on September 24.

“Many could rightly argue that the future is on the continent of Africa,” said Harris, noting that the median age in Africa is 19, a sign of the potential for economic growth. “It is not about, and simply about aid, but about investment and understanding the capacity that exists.”

The alliance, led by the African Development Bank and Mastercard, aims to provide digital access to critical services for 100 million individuals and businesses in Africa over the next 10 years. Heifer International is a founding alliance member alongside Equity Bank, Microsoft, and the Syngenta Foundation.

MADE will initially focus on supporting the agricultural sector and women. For example, an initial alliance project is aimed at providing digital access for three million farmers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria, before expanding to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Ghana, and then continent-wide.

Heifer’s role, in collaboration with Mastercard, is to catalyze this last mile digital visibility and traceability in agriculture through ecosystem strengthening and curated financial and technical support for micro, small, and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs. Digital visibility for smallholder farmers creates a platform that makes it easier, safer, and faster for farmers to get paid more for their produce, thereby improving their income.

The launch of the MADE alliance follows from a visit by Vice President Harris to Ghana in March, where she issued a call to action to business and philanthropic leaders to make commitments and investments in support of the U.S. Administration’s Digital Transformation with Africa initiative.

Speaking in the Ghanaian capital Accra at the time, Vice President Harris said: “Whether you are a student relying on virtual courses, a farmer relying on an app for an early warning about extreme weather, or a small-business owner looking to sell goods online, digital services are essential to 21st century economies. Expanding access to the Internet drives growth and creates opportunity for innovation.  And once people are online, they have greater access then to education, greater access to information, and greater access to financial services.”

Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President of Heifer Africa, says the MADE Alliance has the potential to drive digital and economic inclusion across the continent.

“The MADE alliance sits perfectly with Heifer’s work with our partners in Africa as we mark 50 years of working in the continent in 2024. Access to finance is undeniably one of the most pressing challenges facing farmers across Africa. Approximately 80% of Africa’s agricultural production comes from smallholder farmers, yet they often lack access to formal financial services. This translates to missed opportunities for investment, limited ability to purchase quality inputs, and constrained capacity for growth and innovation within the sector.

Surita Sandosham, President and CEO, Heifer International, noted the significance of the alliance for improving the lives of Africa’s smallholder farmers.

“MADE emerges as a game-changer for Africa’s smallholder farmers. We are excited about this partnership and are poised to drive digital inclusion that will transform the lives of smallholder farmers and women in Africa. We are on the cusp of a revolution in Africa’s agriculture that can bring more prosperity, security, and opportunities for the continent.”

Heifer’s investment in driving digital inclusion also forms a key part of discussions by stakeholders later this month as it holds its AYuTe Next Gen, a gathering of young Agritech innovators and stakeholders on June 11 at Kigali. Young entrepreneurs and innovators from Nigeria will compete with peers from other countries for the top regional prizes to be won at the gathering.

Themed ‘Reimagining Africa’s Agriculture for the Next 50’, the inaugural AYuTe Next Gen presents an inspiring showcase of cutting-edge, tech-driven solutions by young innovators that are transforming the agricultural sector in the continent.

AYuTe (Agriculture, Youth and Technology) is an initiative by Heifer International, working with partners to harness the boundless potential of the continent’s youth, innovation, and entrepreneurship to address real challenges faced by smallholder farmers while delivering solutions that can revolutionise the agriculture sector. Launched in 2021, the initiative has generated a huge response. Some of the winning solutions have gone on to make a real difference in the continent’s agricultural development.

This year, Heifer International is celebrating 80 years of supporting smallholder farmers globally and 50 years in Africa, creating and executing solutions in partnerships with governments, donors, partners, and communities to improve the agricultural ecosystem across the continent.

To mark these major milestones, Heifer will use the AYuTe Next Gen gathering to inspire a new generation of young agripreneurs and innovators throughout Africa, driving a forward-looking vision for the next 50 years of agricultural transformation on the continent.


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