from HASSAN ONYANGO in Kampala, Uganda
KAMPALA – AFRICA, a continent contending with widespread inequality, over half of the population excluded from the formal economy and a third lacking formal proof of identity, thriving is an enormous challenge.
The global food crisis in the making is the latest addition to these hardships.
However, a silver lining exists.
Across Africa, a digital evolution is underway, having started before the pandemic struck in 2020.
While there are significant gaps in infrastructure and internet access, the proliferation of mobile phones makes the continent fertile soil for the adoption of innovative solutions that create new value chains and wider access to financial tools.
Farming is an example.
According to Mastercard, local farmers face significant challenges, including limited access to markets, access to working capital to secure quality seeds and pesticides, and access to relevant financial tools to pay and get paid efficiently.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is the perhaps the most vital source of livelihoods, with over 60 percent of the population are smallholder farmers,” said Michael Froman, Mastercard vice chairman and president of strategic growth.
He recently embarked on a trip to Africa, where he covered Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Uganda.
Froman noted economic growth from agriculture is estimated to be between two to four times more effective at reducing extreme poverty than any other sector.
“With greater investment, digitisation and support, many countries have the potential to increase food production, reduce costly imports, promote rural livelihoods and reduce poverty,” he added.
Froman offered Farm Pass as a critical part. Farm Pass is a digital platform that Mastercard launched in 2015.
It brings together various agri-sector stakeholders from the supply and demand sides in one agricultural marketplace.
Smallholder farmers can access a stable marketplace with transparent pricing, enabling them to command higher prices, and quality inputs and agricultural advisory services to increase harvest productivity.
Across Africa, Farm Pass has already helped around 659 000 smallholder farmers.
A partnership between Mastercard and Ecobank Group, which will see Farm Pass rolled out to 33 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, will grow the digital solution’s footprint beyond Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania where it is currently live.
“Before I used to spend money on transportation, but now I can sell my produce from home and wait for an update on my phone. Also, all the prices of e-Farm inputs are easily accessible, including the change in prices,” said coffee farmer Kibonde Christine Nabukeera.
He is a member of the Kibinge Farmer Producer Organisation in Uganda.
At Kibinge, over 3 400 farmers have registered for Farm Pass.
Froman said before the launch of Farm Pass, farmers struggled with a long sales process, delayed payments and manual navigation of complicated paper trails, in addition to the risk that paper records could be lost.
“But now, these farmers are more optimistic about the potential of their farming operations,” he said.
Farm Pass is also play a part in providing wider access to capital, given that only 3 percent of the agri-sector currently receive credit from banks.
In Addis Ababa, a new partnership between Mastercard, Gavi, JSI and the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia was formalised.
It culminated in Wellness Pass, aimed at tackling problems created by fragmented and manual healthcare systems, including lack of interoperability, a reliance on paper-based medical records, and limited ability to verify care plans.
The solution facilitates digitizing health and vaccination records and makes them portable and available offline.
It also uses biometric verification to preserve patient privacy and enable individuals to participate equitably in society.
In the wake of the pandemic, the Wellness Pass tool has been reconfigured from focusing on childhood vaccinations to tracking COVID-19 vaccinations.
Wellness Pass is anticipated to reach 1 million Ethiopians in the next 15 months.
It is consistent with the 2025 Digital Ethiopia Strategy.
Mastercard has a commitment to connect one billion people, 50 million small and micro businesses and 25 million women-run businesses to the digital economy by the same year.
– CAJ News