Examining 100 Innovations and Breakthroughs for the Future and Africa’s Agriculture

The quest to power African agricultural growth in the next decade is driven by innovations, commercialization and youth empowerment; all of which are underpinned by megatrends in Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) in Africa. The implementation of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A), which currently prioritizes post-harvest management and climate change, would depend on strategic resources that support the strengthening of science, technology and innovation towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

In this respect, the recently published report by the European Commission  titled “100 radical innovation breakthroughs for the future” represents one such resources.  Premised on creative disruption, the foresight study predicts that break in existing patterns will occur when simultaneous changes in social, technological, and economic elements bring about techno-economic paradigm shifts.

The report captures potentially impactful breakthroughs and innovations over the next two decades as enablers or barriers to sustainability transitions. In what seems to dull the line between science fiction and reality, the study highlights emerging and future technologies capable of creating radical shifts in global economy. In agriculture specifically, the study identifies such innovations as (i) precision agriculture; (ii) hyperspectral imaging for future monitoring of agricultural lands; (iii) indoor gardening that combines high-tech developments and new social practices;  (iv) community gardening to connect food producers and food consumers in the same geographic region; (v) permaculture that  integrates landscape and people; (vi) swarm intelligence to replicate collective behaviour such as bees in a hive; (vii) artificial photosynthesis and plant communication; (viii) biodegradable sensors and (ix) underwater habitats.

Altogether, the report identifies 87 emerging technologies and 13 social innovations driven by factors such as health, well-being and sustainability. Coming at a time when the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has been launched, the report should guide the development of multidisciplinary framework for technical support and advice to member countries on the innovations and breakthroughs here highlighted.

It also underscores the need  to further strengthen  capacities (individual, institutional & systemic) to meet sustainable development goals, aligned to agriculture with focus on developing soft skills; targeted investments in higher education institutions; curriculum review and international collaboration to support  tailored programs and generate homegrown solutions that would help Africa navigate the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

Abdulrazak Ibrahim, 04/10/2019

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