South Africa: MTN and Cisco Launch IoT Services

South Africa: MTN and Cisco Launch IoT Services

South Africa: MTN and Cisco Launch IoT Services.

MTN and Cisco has on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 announced the availability of the Cisco Jasper Control Center automated IoT connectivity platform for companies looking to provide IoT services to their customers on MTN’s mobile network throughout South Africa. MTN is the first mobile operator in South Africa to deploy Control Center, a global IoT platform, enabling their business customers to launch, manage, and monetize IoT services worldwide.

“We’re excited to see the early adoption from our business customers, and it’s clear that organizations in every industry are eager to deliver powerful connected services that help transform their businesses,” said Mariana Kruger, General Manager for ICT Solutions at MTN Business. “More businesses worldwide rely on Cisco Jasper Control Center than any other platform to deliver these IoT services, and combined with our powerful network, we are providing customers with the premier IoT connectivity solution in South Africa.”

Initial customer adoption has indicated strong demand for Control Center across all industries, with particular interest from the connected car, vehicle tracking, building security & automation, and logistics industries.

“Regardless of industry, every business can benefit from delivering connected services that enhance their customers’ experiences, help reduce operational cost, and introduce new sources of revenue,” said Kalle Ward, Managing Director, EMEAR, Cisco IoT. “Businesses throughout South Africa trust MTN as their network and business solutions provider, and now with Control Center, those businesses can reliably and securely launch and monetize IoT services not only in South Africa but globally.”

MTN’s mobile network, combined with Cisco Jasper Control Center, enables enterprises to securely and cost-effectively deliver new connected services throughout South Africa and to scale those services globally as needed. Cisco Jasper partners with 50+ service providers that manage IoT devices across more than 550 mobile networks worldwide, which enables businesses throughout South Africa to easily utilize the Control Center platform to deliver their IoT services to other countries, too, as business demands.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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Cryptojacking threatens cryptocurrency safety, security and value

Cryptojacking threatens cryptocurrency safety, security and value

Financial Institutions are quick to implement digital platforms without accompanying cyber security as part of their focus.

In addition to malware, a newer and bigger threat to the safety, security and value of cryptocurrencies has emerged—in-browser cryptojacking that hackers use to target the newer less-well known currencies such as Monero, Coinhive and Zcash—low-profile cryptocurrencies, that ironically are the currencies-of-choice among threat actors.

A recent cryptojacking campaign infected over half-a-million victims in just three days.

According to Jeremy Samide, CEO of Stealthcare, an international cybersecurity and threat assessment firm based in the US and Canada, “In-browser cryptojacking works off JavaScripts, which are installed on the most popular websites and readily available to anyone with criminal intent. With JavaScript the hacker uses the victim’s own browser to mine, or rather ‘cryptomine,’ for transactions, secretly diverting small amounts of currency at a time to his own account where it can be turned into cash.”

Industry analysts recognize Stealthcare for changing cybersecurity from defense to a more aggressive posture that relies on early warning, threat assessment, AI and human intelligence. Early on, Stealthcare’s proprietary platform Zero Day Live, detected a significant upward trend in cryptomining and cryptojacking, warned its clients of the threat and provided countermeasures.

“This is criminal behavior plain and simple. Wrongdoers directly attack the weakest link—the consumers who rely on cryptocurrency exchanges and their digital wallets for their transactions. They lure their victims in through elaborate phishing campaigns, drive-by downloads, and other subterfuges,” says Samide, adding, “The explosion of initial coin offerings (ICO) and cryptocurrency exchanges proliferating without adequate security, gave hackers the opening they needed to attack wallets and apps, siphoning off cryptocurrency from these exchanges.”

Bitcoin and Ethereum were targets when they first emerged. But as they become more mainstream, they are also being scrutinized by sovereign governments looking to apply transparency requirements on their transactions. “These legacy cryptocurrencies now appear to be less attractive as hackers target emerging and more privately-focused currencies such as Coinhive along with Monero and Zcash,” according to Samide.

Cryptomining Malware Threats

In addition to the in-browser JavaScript threat, cyber criminals are still transforming older malware to include cryptomining and cryptojacking capabilities. In doing so they are creating polymorphic strains of new attacks. Explains Samide, “Some of these cryptojacking campaigns are still using older EternalBlue exploits, which were stolen by Shadow Brokers and used to create the ransomwareWannaCrythat wreaked havoc on the National Health Services hospitals in England and Scotland as well as Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, FedEx, Spain’s Telefonica and the Deutsche Bahn.”

Cryptomining malware threats today are becoming three dimensional, having the ability to circumvent antivirus applications by dropping in and launching malicious payloads that can shut down antivirus processes to evade further detection. As their malware proliferates through various attack vectors, their illicit mining capabilities continue to grow exponentially, stealing hundreds and thousands of dollars over time.

Samide insists, “Playing defense is no longer adequate. When we developed Zero Day Live, it became the world’s first complete cyber threat intelligence aggregation platform to spot emerging trends, uncover actionable information, and report on high-value intelligence that allows companies to respond quickly to impending threats.” Stealthcare researchers and technical staff also provide ongoing assistance to Zero Day Live clients that includes human threat assessment and, if need be, disaster recovery and new tactics to thwart future attacks.

The Gartner Research Report for Security Leaders, recognized Stealthcare’s Threat Intelligence platform, and stated that many vendors can provide access to information; fewer provide truly anticipatory content based on customized intelligence.

The Future of Cryptocurrency

“Looking to the future,” Samide says, “Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) will continue to pop up. But to maintain their legitimacy, cryptocurrencies will have to conform to government regulations, which will transform many of them into more widely accepted digital currencies to be used routinely in everyday commerce.”

In addition to cryptocurrency warnings and defenses, as well as alerting its clients of the Atlanta ransomware attack, Stealthcare predicted the evolution and growing sophistication of malware or Evoware, which became a reality in 2016 and includes new self-propagating ransomware mutations.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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Blockchain to unlock real value for South African sport

Blockchain to unlock real value for South African sport

SportsPodium chief development officer, Natalie du Toit, and SportsPodium CEO, Jaco Rossouw

Distributed, transparent and open source – Blockchain technology is changing the way we look at, and use data. Already revolutionising the financial sector with its potential to bring real change, Blockchain is starting to shake up a number of other industries as the demand for transparency and ownership of data grows.

The blockchain is, by design, a decentralised technology which uses a global network of computers to manage a database of records or transactions jointly. Anyone can change the underlying code, and anyone can see what’s going on.

A group of innovative South Africans held a roundtable in Sandton this week to discuss how they plan to use this technology to build the largest decentralised database for sports data.

“I think that Blockchain technology has introduced us to a new way of solving some of our biggest problems,” says SportsPodium co-founder and CEO, Jaco Rossouw.

A concept first born in 2012, the introduction of Blockchain has catapulted SportsPodium to what it has become today, a platform that allows individuals participating in sport to record their sports information on a daily basis. The information is verified using various algorithms, and in return, the Blockchain will issue these individuals with tokens.

SportsPodium also has a network of sports ambassadors across several sporting disciplines, and this network of recognised, household names, along with community interaction, will ensure large-scale user adoption of the platform.

“Blockchain will enable people to capture their daily training, dietary and competition information while being rewarded with cryptocurrency. By incentivising users with Blockchain tokens, we are essentially unlocking a value in sport that is both transparent and fair,” he says.

Regardless of an athlete’s age or level, SportsPodium offers them the opportunity to earn an income, have access to much-needed sports equipment, measure and improve their performance, and market themselves to the right clubs or sports bodies.

“Sport empowers people, and it has the power to change the world. Through our network of ambassadors, SportsPodium is also a community project. A place where retired athletes, coaches, current athletes and peers all have a place. The benefits of this project filter from top to bottom and bottom to top, and it’s an opportunity for us to really grow sport and level the playing field,” says Natalie du Toit, Paralympic SA swimming star and Chief Development Officer for SportsPodium.

To kick off this first-of-its-kind project, SportsPodium will be holding a challenge to golfers worldwide from June 21 to 28 this year. Using golf as the first sports discipline to populate their database, SportsPodium hopes to break the World Record for the most golfers in one competition.

“We have decided to use golf as our first sport because, historically, golfers are used to logging their data. During the challenge, we will be asking golfers to enter their results into the app. There are over 60 million golfers worldwide, and we need over 325 000 players to take part in order to break the World Record,” Rossouw explains.

“We will be building SportsPodium sport by sport, where each sport has different criteria, and as a result, they will need different algorithms to verify information. We believe that decentralising this information is a vital step in changing the sports industry. With SportsPodium there will be a real, transparent and ethical way to facilitate the flow of funds in the sports industry, and this, in turn, will effectively reduce corruption.”


Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

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The EU’s data protection regulations and South African business

The EU’s data protection regulations and South African business

Under the GDPR, regulators have significant new powers to fine businesses that do not comply with the new rules

On 25 May 2018, the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force. While the regulations are aimed at protecting EU citizens and residents, its reach will be global and will impact on certain businesses operating in South Africa.

The GDPR replaces the Data Protection Directive and is far-reaching, imposing additional obligations on organisations processing personal data of individuals in the EU. The protection not only extends to EU-residents, but all individuals who find themselves in the EU. All personal data allowing a person to be identified, either directly or indirectly, is protected. This includes an EU person’s name, identification number, location, or IP-address. It also includes information relating to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of a person.

South African organisations with activities in Europe may not be aware that the GDPR may apply to them too. The Regulation may apply to a South African business if it has a stable presence in the EU, if the business actively offers free or paid-for goods or services to individuals based in the EU, or if the business intends to offer goods or services specifically to individuals in the EU.

The GDPR also covers those South African businesses that monitor any behaviour of individuals in the EU, which includes the tracking for fraud prevention purposes, location tracking by mobile apps and collection of data via wearable devices.

Under the GDPR, regulators have significant new powers to fine businesses that do not comply with the new rules. Fines of up to €20 million or 4% of the firm’s turnover (whichever is greater) can be imposed for the most serious data protection offences. While regulators can fine a South African business, practically the business would need to have a presence or asset in the EU in order for regulators to be able to enforce the fine.

Norton Rose Fulbright has launched Parker, a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence, which helps businesses in non-EU jurisdictions (including South Africa) to determine whether the GDPR applies to them. it uses natural language processing to answer a wide variety of questions non-EU businesses may have on the GDPR, including whether the GDPR applies to their business and what activities the rules cover.

By Kerri Crawford and Adriaan Louw, Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa

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EU’s new data protection rules come into effect

EU’s new data protection rules come into effect

EU’s new data protection rules come into effect

With the new regulations in force, companies working in the EU – or any association or club – must now get express consent to collect personal information or face hefty fines, the BBC reported.

The new regulations give the users of tech companies the right to see what information about them are being collected and also have them deleted if they wish so. It also makes mandatory for companies to tell all affected users about any data breach, and inform the overseeing authority within 72 hours, the BBC report said.

The new EU law also establishes consumers’ “right to know” who is processing their information and what it will be used for.

People will be able to block the processing of their data for commercial reasons and even have data deleted under the “right to be forgotten”.

Parents will decide for children until they reach the age of consent, which member states will set anywhere between 13 and 16 years old.

To ensure that companies in the EU comply with the GDPR rules, EU member states must set up supervisory authorities which will work in a coordinated manner. Major technology companies have said that they are ready to comply with the GDPR rules.

Microsoft this week announced that it will extend the core rights guaranteed under the new regulations to all of its customers worldwide. “GDPR is an important step forward for privacy rights in Europe and around the world, and we’ve been enthusiastic supporters of GDPR since it was first proposed in 2012,” Julie Brill, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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Shining a light on Signify South Africa

Shining a light on Signify South Africa

Raja Moudgil Signify, Country Manager, Southern African.

Philips Lighting recently announced their intention to change their name to Signify. We chose this name because we realised that lighting has become an intelligent language which connects and conveys meaning.

The company will continue to use the Philips brand in store under the existing licensing agreement with Royal Philips but the name change signals a new approach to lighting in South Africa for our business.

Signify wants to change the way South Africans illuminate their homes, offices and roads.

While the rest of the world has made the move to new technology and Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting South Africans continue to use 20 year old technology, losing out on the energy saving, environmentally friendly and cost saving benefits of LEDs.

Globally, especially in Europe the US and Asia, more than 70% of the industry has moved towards LED lighting. In South Africa less than 30% of the lighting being used is LED with South Africans still mostly using compact fluorescent light (CFL) technology.

While the rest of the world adopted LED two years ago we are still seeing Halogen lighting being sold here. In 2016 the European Union banned the sale of Halogen lights which are even more damaging to the environment than CFL lighting.

Even in Africa our neighbours are outstripping us when it comes to adopting safer and newer technology. Countries like Ghana, which started the shift away from CFL lighting in 2015, have invested billions in LED lighting and reaped the rewards within months of setting up infrastructure.

It is widely accepted that LED lighting is more cost effective but of equal importance is the fact that it helps reduce global warming because it does not emit any heat or harmful gasses. LED bulbs also use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than CFL bulbs.

LED lighting has revolutionised lighting across the world and in 2014 Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their development of blue LEDs.

At Signify it is important to become the custodians of LED lighting and to work in partnership with other stakeholders in the industry, who have a similar stance on the importance of LED lighting as we do, to educate the market about the key benefits of LED lighting.

The more we educate retailers and consumers the faster the industry as a whole will catch up to global norms and standards.

We are taking a three tier approach to transforming the industry.

It starts with convincing key stakeholders – those who are making policy and drafting industry norms, including government and the other stakeholders such as architects and specifiers in construction and design.

We are interacting with them at one on one and global level, educating them and supporting them in kick-starting any initiative where LED lighting can play a role.

The second tier is looking at the different mediums of distribution – the networks through which the goods reach the consumers. More than 70% of the lighting purchases made by South African consumers occur at the more than 3000 retail stores in the country.

I am personally meeting light buyers and educating them about the fact that it is also their social responsibility to start selling LED and make it more visible.

The third and final tier is selling directly to consumers, which will remain the most difficult. Many consumers are stuck in old buying habits and it is only through education and highlighting to them that using LED lighting is the best thing to do from an environmental and social impact point of view that we will be able to start influencing their behaviour.

Success at a tier one and two level however will go a long way in achieving this.

Our aim is to move the market to a 50% LED, 50% CFL split by the end of this year and move that up to 80% LED products by the end of next year.

Once we have more products on the shelf we are hoping to see adoption rates increase and LED become top of mind for the consumer.

Signify also believes that LED lighting is not just about the home or businesses.

South Africa has close to one million street light points and they are all conventional. Many of our highways however remain unlit because of either a lack of infrastructure or a failure of the infrastructure which does exist.

Converting highway lighting to LED lighting will cut costs, increase safety on our highways as LED lights last longer and, if they form part of intelligent system which activates lighting with the use of motion sensors, could end up saving the government millions of rand in electricity costs.

LED lighting could not only serve as a more efficient way to light highways it could also be a way to light them more smartly.

South Africa needs to transform how we light our lives. I have already highlighted how important it is from a cost saving and environmental impact point of view but what is also important is that it will help consumers save money and light their homes for longer periods.

The rest of the world already knows what the future of lighting is it; truly is time for South Africa to come out of the dark and into the light which is LED technology.

By Raja Moudgil Signify, Country Manager, Southern African

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Are feature analysts the new business analysts?

Are feature analysts the new business analysts?

BBD executive head of banking Matthew Barnard

As Agile continues to gain momentum in large enterprises, we continually need to review how we adapt traditional roles to the new paradigm.

The role of a business analyst (BA) has caused much discussion over the years, with Scrum guides indicating the need for a product owner, scrum master and a development team. Many interpreted this to mean no need for analysts.

Agile teams often do not include a BA, normally comprising technical minds working alongside the product owner, to effectively deliver a quality product. This works very well when there is an experienced team, the product owner is available and the feature being implemented only impacts one product. In larger enterprises, where the feature (or features) being developed could span many products and teams, this can lead to complexity and inconsistent understanding.

Matthew Barnard, executive head of banking at BBD, explains that as Agile teams break up complexity into smaller implementable features and stories (while driving this functionality across multiple teams to achieve enterprise scale), so the need has arisen for someone to understand the cross-team impact and facilitate the implementation.

“We are finding that more traditional BA roles need to evolve to encompass a combination of business and systems analyst. At BBD we’re calling this person a feature analyst, someone who is accountable for guiding the business requirements by working with the business stakeholders, also working with the feature teams to ensure these are delivered effectively end-to-end.

As per the diagram, traditionally BAs don’t always work across a team, or have the technical knowledge to do so. Feature analysts have a broader end-to-end understanding of the project, can work across multiple teams and product owners and really own the process from start to finish, and getting involved at a technical level of implementations,” says Barnard.

Constantly changing market demands and complex tech stacks are leading to multi-faceted product development, while fast-paced and ever-changing technology is resulting in companies having to push products forward faster. These factors require a role such as a features analyst, who understands the impact across the software development life cycle (SDLC), can implement the required changes and have the relevant technical and business skills to communicate with a variety of stakeholders.

Barnard further clarifies how “a feature analyst can fulfil a type of scrum master role in that not only do they guide the product owners, they also facilitate the sharing of knowledge among the team and throughout the SDLC. This results in less information drop-off at the end of each feature and a closer realisation of the original business vision of a smooth and effective product delivery”.

Aliaksandra Sukharuchkin, a feature analyst at BBD, says that although BAs have traditionally been forced to learn more of the technical aspects, at BBD these roles are filled by people who are already quite tech savvy. “This has paved the way for feature analysts in some of our project teams. Now that we’re involved in all aspects from coding to testing and project guiding, we’re able to ensure seamless implementation for our clients. Interestingly, it is often with implementation that clients experience their biggest downfall in the Agile landscape,” comments Sukharuchkin.

In conclusion, Barnard believes there is something deeply authentic about not just following a trend, but rather “making your own space within methodologies for what works best for your employees, company and clients”.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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Interview: Riccardo Spagni co-founder of a new open source blockchain

Interview: Riccardo Spagni co-founder of a new open source blockchain

Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni, co-founder of Tari.

South African cryptocurrency expert and lead maintainer of the Monero project Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni has co-founded a new open source blockchain protocol named Tari.

Tari is being built as a blockchain protocol for managing, transferring, and using digital assets, and is stewarded by a team based in Johannesburg.

The Johannesburg-based team will work on building a blockchain protocol as a second-layer solution on top of Monero, leveraging the existing cryptocurrency’s security while offering a scalable and dynamic platform for digital assets.

IT News Africa spoke to Ricardo who gives insights on venturing into blockchain and Tari.

What brought the idea of venturing into the industry and how was the industry like when you started out?

I got started in early 2011, in a space that was extremely nascent. Bitcoin was really the only blockchain project at the time. I’ve seen a lot of projects start and fail, and a key issue that we identified over the past few years is that many projects do not have any users. They build a cool, amazing thing and hope users will flock to it or people will build using their platform. We believe that, like with any traditional start-up, you must figure out who your customers are and go speak to them, and build a product that they want.

What Tari is all about, and why is it important?

Tari is a decentralised assets protocol for both businesses and consumers. It allows issuers of native digital assets to issue them on a blockchain instead of on their own platform. Examples include loyalty points, tickets, virtual goods and games. The reason it’s important is right now there’s no interconnectedness between digital assets. So if you earn loyalty points on an airline, you can’t spend them on anything except flights and upgrades. If we can get multiple asset issuers to use this common system, which is to their benefit, then their assets will be interconnected and you’ll be able to spend your airline points on movie tickets, for example.

What brought about the idea of implementing a blockchain incubator in Johannesburg?

Part of it was me being selfish because I already have offices and staff up here. To expand that and add an incubator to it made a lot of sense. But I also think that there is a ton of potential among developers and researchers, particularly in Johannesburg, that largely goes untapped. The start-up scene in South Africa is very dominated by Cape Town. There is a massive pool of talent here in Johannesburg that no one’s tapping into. People who end up working for medical aids and the banks. I think that we can leverage that in a very authentic way.

How are blockchains going to change the way we buy, sell and track assets?

There are a number of things that blockchain enables and a number of things it doesn’t. Typically speaking, blockchains are very inefficient. You can build a far more efficient system that is centralised. But it’s largely dis-interesting to an asset issuer, because then you have all sorts of issues with cross-border regulation and so on. A blockchain takes it away from that, because it is decentralised and anyone in any country can issue on it.

What’s really powerful is not only do you have permission-less innovation and people building on top of the blockchain, but you can cut down on things like fraud. Right now, fraudulent tickets are a big problem. We can cut that down because, using a blockchain system, it becomes like a bearer asset and you are the only holder of that ticket. When you sell the ticket, the buyer becomes the holder of that ticket. It’s impossible for two people to hold the same ticket at the same time. Forgery becomes non-existent.

What other projects are you looking into this year?

Our focus this year is on continuing to make Monero the world’s leading pro-privacy currency and building Tari to be the world’s leading decentralised digital assets protocol.

By Neo Sesinye
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Freshworks Announces Expansion Plans in Africa

Freshworks Announces Expansion Plans in Africa

Arihant Jain,Freshworks Director for Middle East & Africa

Freshworks Inc, a provider of cloud-based business software, recently announced its expansion into the African market. Freshworks plans to substantially increase its commitment with specific investments in marketing, sales and partner resources to better serve its customers in the region.

“Africa is a very strategic market for Freshworks, said Arihant Jain, Director for Middle East & Africa, Freshworks. “The opening of Africa is an important milestone for us, as it demonstrates our expanding commitment to the region and strengthens our position as a leading software provider. The combination of our industry-leading solutions along with a growing customer base in the region will augment our local operations. Our aim is to build rich, meaningful engagement with enterprises of all sizes that are looking for new cutting-edge solutions to power their customer and employee experiences.”

IDC predicts the overall African IT spending to reach $33.4 billion in 2018, with nearly $1.9 billion of that spend coming from Nigeria alone. The year 2017 saw Freshworks building their African foundation with the company’s flagship ‘Partner Program’ receiving immense interest from regional resellers and adding Beaupun and GoTech to their partner ecosystem.

Today, with a diverse network of partners, the experience of serving leading businesses and their IT executives and the recent accreditation of the ‘2018 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice for IT Service Management Tools’, Freshworks is paving way for the future of IT service management in Africa to keep pace with growing customer and market demands.

With a mission to re-imagine and transform IT experiences, Freshworks, along with select c-level executives and IT leaders, would be discussing the ‘ConsumeriSation of IT: From a Service to an Experience’ at an exclusive invite-only Breakfast & Networking event organised on 31st May at the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos. With the company’s strategic focus on the African market, this event is a step forward in building Freshworks’ credentials as a front-runner in the experience era.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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Preserving Africa’s agricultural revolution with innovation

Preserving Africa’s agricultural revolution with innovation

Fayelle Ouane, co-founder of the Suguba Innovation Hub.

As we celebrate Africa Day and commemorate our varied accomplishments, let’s also take a few minutes to appreciate how agriculture has been instrumental in developing the continent, and how innovation is key to preserving it in future. We are “standing on the edge of a second green revolution” and smart ideas from our young Einsteins may just be what we need to fulfil Africa’s dream of becoming the world’s food basket and sustaining its economy.

Agriculture has been Africa’s bread and butter over the last century and it continues to do so. In addition to creating most of the jobs in Africa, over half the population depend on it for their livelihoods. According to Nepad, the agricultural population in Africa stands at 530 million people and is expected to exceed 580 million by 2020. Africa has 33 million farms of less than 2 hectares, accounting for 80% of all farms, and the agricultural labour force is comprised mostly of women. Although poor, Africa has the largest surface area of uncultivated arable land and is regarded as a major player in the global food market.

Nepad’s 2013 paper ‘Agriculture in Africa’ states that agriculture forms a significant portion of all African economies and contributes toward major continental priorities like eradicating poverty and hunger, boosting intra-Africa trade and investments, rapid industrialization and economic diversification, sustainable resource and environmental management, and creating jobs, human security and shared prosperity.

Former African Union chair, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said Africa would have a population of two billion people by 2050, the majority women and youth. She advised that Africans needed to create wealth and conserve its resources for future generations.

The agricultural sector has continued to absorb a large proportion of the working population and will continue doing so. By 2025, it is estimated that 330 million young Africans will have entered the labour market, with limited opportunities for finding jobs in cities. Agriculture in Africa has great potential for increasing growth and sustainable wealth creation.

Nepad’s chief executive Ibrahim Assane Mayaki in the paper said farmers were the primary guardians of Africa’s natural heritage and environmental assets, and they should be granted opportunities to preserve and build on those assets.

The report found that despite being self-sufficient in the 1960s, Africa had become a net importer of cereals. But since 2016, it’s core ingredient, maize, had been hit by a fall armyworm infestation. The outbreak in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa added further strain to food security, the impacts of which could be catastrophic for Africa, the poorest and most underdeveloped continent in the world.

The fall armyworm has a reputation for destroying maize but also feeds on more than 80 species of plants including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 200 million people depend on maize for food security as it is a staple cereal crop grown by farmers.

The pest has already caused more than $13 billion in crop losses. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations revealed that by February 2018, only three out of 54 African States had not reported infestations.

The UK Aid stated in a report that the armyworm could potentially cause maize yield losses in a range of 8.3 million to 20.6 million tonnes per annum.

With the ongoing risks to food security posed by the fall armyworm, innovation could be crucial in finding solutions. Fresh approaches that help farmers identify, treat and track instances of the fall armyworm mean that farmers would have a better chance to protect their crops against the invasive fall armyworm.

Agriculture Research Council CEO Dr Shadrack Moephuli told delegates at the 3rd Global Food Security conference in Cape Town last year that innovations were crucial in assisting both commercial and smallholder farmers with food losses.

“These challenges reinforce the critical role of innovation to make agriculture more competitive and sustainable. Innovation is the new normal in agriculture,” he said.

Agriculture is currently standing on the edge of a second green revolution, according to PwC’s 2016 ‘Africa Agribusiness Insights Survey’. This revolution will entail fundamental shifts in how the agricultural sector utilises and implements innovative technology to improve output in a sustainable manner.
“Advances in technology and innovation are the key to the future of agriculture,” said Frans Weilbach, Agribusiness Industry Leader for PwC Africa in the insights report.

“Innovative technology and advancements in productivity are becoming increasingly important as pressure mounts…The global population is growing rapidly and the climate is ever-changing. Agribusinesses are making changes to go high-tech. From data-gathering drones to artificial intelligence farming, technology is making the agricultural sector more precise and efficient.”

PwC found that the agricultural sector to be one of the most critical industries for the African continent due to its economic potential, and is projected to become a US$1trillion industry in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.
Taking a keen interest in the fall armyworm threat in Africa, Nesta, on behalf of Feed the Future, Land O’ Lakes International Development (LOL) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) decided to roll up their sleeves and immediately search for innovative solutions. They held a competition between March and May targeting innovators from around the globe, in search of digital solutions and approaches that could provide timely, context-specific, actionable information to enable smallholder farmers and those who support them to identify, treat, and track incidence of the pest in Africa. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), together with LOL and FFAR contributed $400,000 in prize awards, and the winners will have a chance to develop their prototypes.

It will be interesting to see what kind of innovative ideas come out from this, and whether any of the prototypes can be developed successfully. After all, Africa — which has the largest surface area of uncultivated arable land — could also be home to the next Einstein. Let us preserve Africa by containing the fall armyworm threat and safeguarding our green revolution through innovative tools.

By Fayelle Ouane, co-founder of the Suguba Innovation Hub

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