It is not every day that agriculture, especially smallholder agriculture in Africa, is the focus of attention in the Silicon Valley. The last week of November 2017, therefore, was like none other in many ways. Most notably, the end of year meeting of the AGRA Board was hosted at Stanford University by the Center on Food Security and the Environment and Stanford’s Board of Trustees Chair’, Jeff Raikes, who was completing the final meeting of his term on the AGRA Board.
As part of the itinerary, the AGRA Board, chaired by one of Africa’s most astute businessmen, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa and comprised of such notable personalities like the former President of Tanzania, H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, met with a rich representation of the Silicon Valley leadership. At a dinner event, former President Kikwete gave a keynote statement on the status of Africa’s agricultural transformation. He particularly emphasized its centrality to the continent’s economic transformation. He also spoke to the sector’s huge potential and the opportunities for scale-up through technology and innovation, as Silicon Valley has done so well in all sectors.
In a town hall-style discussion with students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Mr. Masiyiwa discussed the pathway to Africa’s transformation through entrepreneurship. He emphasized the need to go beyond philanthropy calling for the creation of opportunities for students to engage in the continental agenda through exchange of talent.
The AGRA team also met with several members of the Google team to talk about the company’s innovative work in Africa. Discussions focused on cutting edge projects like the Next Billion Initiative that seeks to provide internet connectivity to the next billion users and the role such initiatives can play in Africa’s agricultural transformation.
The week’s activities, once again, underscored the need for broad-based partnerships, including with the tech community, to fully get Africa on a path to an inclusive economic transformation powered by agriculture; its most important sector.