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Digitalisation Helps People on the Ground and We Want to Transform Food Systems in Africa

✅ Kirsten Focken at the 2023 SNRD Africa conference “Transform & Innovate: Future-proof Food Systems” which was held in Somone/Senegal, 8-13 October. Kirsten, who is heading GIZ’s Africa Department 2, touches on innovative ideas in the area of digital tools in the agri sector and the agenda on transformative approaches, which GIZ is implementing increasingly.


My expectations are that first of all we as GIZ working on the same issue of food systems come together and exchange on where we are, what we are doing. And while doing that develop new ideas, innovative ideas for new approaches. Because overall what we need to do is to really transform Food Systems in Africa. The concrete areas we and the colleagues in particular are working on in the working groups are you know new innovative ideas in the area of digitalization where to use new digital methods and in the agri-sector.

Another area we continue working on is developing products such as the Farmer Business Schools which we’re already using to train farmers in more than 10 countries in Africa, and of course, another very important area is gender transformative approaches, which we are increasingly implementing.

The question of where we really have the most impact currently is very difficult. I think generally, personally, I think when we work with the people in rural areas that’s where unfortunately people currently are suffering most and that’s where we need to continue working on maybe even put more effort on, on really working with farmers and with people and with women and young people in particular.

— There is sort of an inherent criticism of digitalization as basically adding to the digital divide in a new era, basically. In other words, it doesn’t really help people on the ground as much. What would you say to that?

— I don’t agree that digitalization doesn’t help people on the ground. People on the ground actually are using already digital tools such as simple phones and the tools that governments and organizations are implementing to for example analyze development finally also have them. Of course everything we are doing we have to look at. You know the “no leave no one behind” concept. But overall digital tools are helping development in many areas. — You mentioned the phones — The what? — The phones. The telephones, the smartphones, on the ground. In a way I think the digitalization discussion is not about those phones. I think that is first generation. We’re talking about artificial intelligence, GPS systems for tractors, this sort of thing. What would you say to that? Where are you throwing your … ?

— Well, all development starts somewhere. So phones are a start into a digital world. In Africa and other parts of the world. GPS is now with us. You know, we’re using GPS for many many years and it’s been very very helpful. I think in particular in the agricultural sector, of course, there are many dangers and risks of artificial intelligence in Africa and again in other parts of the world. That’s why governments and certainly development projects such as ours really have to look at the risks and the impacts very closely. Overall I believe what we’re doing in many countries, working with partners and with governments is going in the right direction. It’s a process.

We have been starting many years ago and we have to continue looking at the right things. Maybe and certainly in some areas we have to adjust. We have to adapt. We have to change and we have to discuss what we can do better, to maybe also accelerate development and point a finger on areas which are not working. But development is a process and we are not there yet.

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