Featured image: Anaya Katlego via Unsplash

Microsoft South Africa has announced an investment of up to R40-million in South Africa’s agriculture sector, which is one of the country’s critical industries driving growth and job creation.

The investment is aimed at driving sustainability in the sector for smallholder farmers, who form an important part of the agricultural workforce in the country.

Microsoft SA will partner with local tech companies to develop innovative solutions to challenges faced in the agricultural sector

Over two million of these farmers help reduce poverty for local communities and establish food systems for South Africa and the wider southern African region. However, they face challenges that prevent them from becoming commercially viable, efficient, and sustainable.

Lillian Barnard, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa comments on the importance of smallholder farmers’ role in driving national economic growth.

“There is no doubt that South Africa’s smallholder farmers have significant potential to drive growth and employment opportunities, as well as enable other sectors within the country to ultimately drive food security. This makes it critical to invest in the sector to address the challenges they face. Key challenges are a lack of infrastructure, access to competitive formal markets, production and business skills, funding and financial support to re-invest in their farming activities, and compliance with food safety regulations and legislation.”

The power of technology

The investment will be used to enable smallholder farmers to harness the power of technology to help improve the economic participation and contribution, efficiencies, viability, and sustainability of their farms.

It also aims to help meet broader South African National Development Plan goals. These goals include; creating job opportunities and facilitating skills development to attracting more women and young South Africans into key sectors such as agriculture.

In order to roll out these technologies, Microsoft will be identifying and appointing established local tech companies to develop and implement high-impact solutions to the challenges the agricultural sector currently faces.

A report by Research ICT Africa on ‘Paving the way towards digitalising agriculture in South Africa’ shows advanced technologies like the Internet of Things, remote sensing technologies, and unmanned aerial vehicles can transform the agricultural sector.

In addition these tools can help to address South Africa’s food security challenges, create jobs, and address historical inequalities by reducing costs, conserving resources, optimising inputs and maximising outputs.

“Our investment is aimed at making a real difference in one of South Africa’s most vital sectors by harnessing the power of technology. High-impact technological solutions will improve efficiencies in smallholder farming, lower the cost of production, improve access to local and international markets, improve compliance with legislation, and drive access to information, among others. By investing in the agriculture sector and unlocking the potential of technology to act as an enabler for growth and skills development, we are showing our commitment to driving sustainability and creating opportunities in one of South Africa’s most critical, job-creating industries,” concludes Barnard.

 

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