Earlier this month, Ethio Telecom – Ethiopia’s major telecommunication services provider – announced the rollout of 5G network across Addis Ababa. The corporate giant said it was “committed to seeing a digital Ethiopia”, as it believes this uplift the country’s overall conditions of living.
A total of 150 5G towers will be active in and around Addis Ababa. Ethio Telecom claims coverage of around 97% of Ethiopia with 3G and 4G, with over 60.8 million subscribers and about 25 million data and internet users.
In February this year, the Communications Authority of Kenya announced it would begin the process of rolling out pre-commercial 5G network capabilities across six mobile stations.
“We are now set to hold a validation workshop in the next one month to discuss the comments received. Once we adopt the input from the stakeholders, we shall establish a national 5G forum and allocate pilot frequencies,” said Matano Ndaro, the director for licensing, standards and compliance at the authority.
The connection between internet access and agriculture
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), worldwide food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 to meet the predicted demand. It will be critical to handle farm inputs such as seeds and fertiliser efficiently and effectively.
“However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions,” the FAO said.
The Internet of Things (IoT), or internet-enabled connectivity between everyday devices, can benefit agriculture in this regard. Sensors can be placed anywhere – on the ground, in the water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs like soil moisture and crop health using the IoT. Farmers can access the collected data via the internet, tablets, and mobile phones, and it is saved on a server or cloud system wirelessly.
Farmers can opt to manually control linked devices or totally automate procedures for any essential actions, depending on the situation. A farmer, for example, can use soil moisture sensors to automatically start irrigation when the water stress level reaches a certain level.
Agritech development on the rise
Ethiopia also happens to be one of the continent’s budding hubs of agritech development, and a number of projects have been taking place in the country over the course of the past few years. One includes the monitoring and evaluation of the Integrated Decision Support System (IDSS) in the country’s Amhara region.
“The application of IDSS as an integrated modeling tool that helps to solve complex issues in agricultural systems by simultaneously assessing production, environmental, economic, and nutritional consequences of adopting agricultural technologies for sustainable increases in food production and use of scarce natural resources. The IDSS approach was applied to the Amhara region of Ethiopia, where the scarcity of resources and agro-environmental consequences are critical to agricultural productivity of a small farm, to analyse the impacts of alternative agricultural technology interventions.
“Results show significant improvements in family income and nutrition, achieved through the adoption of irrigation technologies, proper use of fertilizer, and improved seed varieties while preserving environmental indicators in terms of soil erosion and sediment loadings,” the (National Center for Biotechnology Information) NCBI said via a peer-reviewed paper.
“Agriculture in Ethiopia accounts for 47% of GDP, 90% of exports and 85% of employment.”
OCP Ethiopia, a subsidiary of the OCP Group, was established in September of 2015. The Moroccan-founded group is a state-owned fertiliser producer, phosphate rock mining firm and phosphoric acid producer. The company also recently launched an agritech fund, in partnership with Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) in Morocco.
In Ethiopia, the group has a number of stakeholders it regularly engages with. These include but are not limited to the ministry of agriculture, public entreprises administration agency, ministry of water irrigation and energy, Ethiopian Agricultural Businesses Corporation, ATA, and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.
Agricultural technology development ‘exciting’
“We are tremendously excited about the introduction of 5G internet to more countries, especially where there is such interesting agricultural technology development happening,” said OCP Group CEO Karim Lotfi Senhadjito to FoodForAfrika.com. “We have a number of ongoing agritech projects, including the launch of a digital commerce platform in Kenya, and another project in Côte d’Ivoire where we are using satellites to pilot new soil-testing methods.”