By:  Heinz Strubenhoff – Senior Private Sector Specialist – World Bank & 
 Roy Parizat – Senior Economist – The World Bank


The world talks a lot about the digital revolution, but few connect it to the coming agriculture revolution, especially in Africa. Digital solutions have huge potential for helping farmers boost productivity and connect to financial tools and markets around the world.

Farming in the plains of northern Nigeria around Abuja requires tedious manual labor because of the lack of farm machinery. A few days of tractor use for farmers in this region could improve productivity by 20 to 40 times. However, farmers cannot afford to buy a tractor in remote rural areas of Africa. Jehiel Oliver, founder of Hello Tractor, thought that an Uber-like tractor service might be a solution. “Our booking system allows farmers to conveniently request, schedule, and prepay for tractor services from nearby smart tractor owners, through text messaging and mobile money. Once service is completed, the prepayment is automatically released to the smart tractor owner,” explains Oliver. His smart two-wheel tractors are equipped with GPS antennae that collect and transfer necessary data. The system helps to reduce tractor costs, raising farm productivity and generates additional income.

These types of innovations have the potential to affect developed countries. Whereas the number of tractors in Nigeria may be insufficient, Switzerland and Germany have a luxury problem: too many under-used tractors. But in cases of both over and under supply, tractor (and car) use could be greatly optimized using digital services.

Figure 1: Number of tractors per 10,000 hectare of arable land (2007)

Nigeria 7
United States 276
Switzerland 2,611

Source: FAO

The core innovation for farmers is that services and money can now be exchanged digitally, a revolution that has been spearheaded in Kenya with mobile money platforms like M-PESA. Mobile money has been so successfully introduced that there is more money on mobile phones today than in the whole banking system of the country with a quarterly volume of $10 billion and 20 million subscribers. M-PESA enables its users to deposit and withdraw money, and transfer money to other users, for example, like agri-input dealers. With 3.5 billion cell phones currently in the world, these services have quickly disseminated to other countries.

In Australia, farmers are herding cattle via cell phones. Boundaries are enforced by electrical prompts from transponders on individual cattle collars. The signal comes from a farm base station linked to GPS tracking. Grazing zones can be enabled and controlled by an app. It’s easy to imagine how this technology greatly reduces labor and material costs of cattle herding.

The digital revolution could also improve the lives of farmers and consumers, especially in reducing wasted time and resources while enhancing productivity. People in rural areas who previously were not able to access banks can now make and received money transfers at low costs.

There are more benefits. Technology may greatly improve food safety in value chains. For instance, consumers in China do not trust domestic food producers. Too many food scandals in the past have undermined consumers trust. That’s why IBM, Walmart, and the Chinese retailer together with Tsinghua University have announced a blockchain food safety alliance to improve food tracking and safety in China. Decentralized ledger technology can trace back the origin of food products in a few seconds instead of a few weeks, making it easier to combat fraud.

Combining big data and digital technology will change the way of doing agribusiness. In the past, suppliers of fertilizers, plant protection products, agriculture machinery, and seeds aimed to increase sales. Changing consumption patterns (25 percent of Europeans are vegan sympathetic and reduce animal protein in their diets) and declining population growth will most likely change the current business model of global agribusiness. “Before, selling more products meant more business for a company like Bayer; whereas in future, the fewer products we sell the better, because we’re selling outcome based services. With sensor devices, we can learn a lot more about what is and is not helping crops and livestock and create a better way of doing things,” says Tobias Menne, head of Bayer’s Digital Farming.

Ultimately, farmers need the most appropriate fertilizers and plant protection products for their location. This mandates the existence of local agri-input dealers who can reach farmers and provide advice and input tailored to farmer needs in partnership with global players. The Farm Shop franchising network in Kenya, for example, now reaches small farmers who previously were challenged in securing appropriate advice and inputs.

Alex Lissitsa, CEO of IMC in Ukraine, is constantly testing and introducing digital solutions for the company’s farming operations. He knows at any time where the agriculture machinery is working by using GPS-monitoring systems. IMC’s agronomists steer drones over their fields to differentiate the use of seeds and fertilizers to the needs of specific tiny plots.

What’s more, less input and higher productivity solutions like these will make farming climate smarter. About 24 percent of carbon emission equivalents come from agriculture. Digital solutions and big data may enable climate funds to invest in small, remote, and disconnected smallholders applying climate-smart farm and irrigation practices to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Finally, governments can improve farming scientific research and education. Artificial intelligence, like chatbots, may greatly improve and reduce the costs of educating and informing farmers. Farmers may be able to quickly get practical answers to questions, for example, about animal diseases, animal health, and vaccination in livestock production, and crop diseases, plant protection, and optimal seeding and harvest times in crop production. Even subsidies may be distributed better with less costs and risks of misuse.

While these innovations only scratch the surface of the coming digital revolution, it’s clear that digital solutions will transform agriculture with great benefits for smallholders.


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Lilongwe — The Malawi iGuide, an electronic investment platform, was developed by the Malawi Investment Trade Center (MICT) assisted by the ECA and UNCTAD acting in line with the United Nations principle of “Delivering as One”. It was officially unveiled by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism in close collaboration with the MITC in Lilongwe, Malawi on 28 February 2018. The launch event was attended by government officials, private sector as well as members of the diplomatic corp.

The iGuide is an easy-to-use online platform providing domestic and foreign investors alike with up-to-date and pertinent information on business opportunities as well as applicable laws and regulations. The platform is grouped into seven chapters around the themes of business set-up, labour, production factors, land, taxes, investor rights, sectors and opportunities.

“The iGuide was launched at an opportune time when investors are facing challenges including accessing consolidated up-to-date investment-related information under one umbrella. In this respect, the Malawi Investment Guide, a joint project of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism with support of the ECA and UNCTAD, was therefore, developed to address these challenges. The iGuide is expected to bring benefits to investors and to the country in general,” noted the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism and MP, Mr. Henry Mussa, during the launch of the iGuide.

Presenting the iGuide during the launch, Emmanuel Chinyama, Economic Affairs Officer, ECA, informed the experts that the project was carried out at the request of the Republic of the Malawi to the Executive Secretary of the ECA. “The Malawi iGuide will be key in attracting investments shaped by the growth sectors and opportunities section, which highlights most recent national development strategies in terms of potential investment priorities”, he added.

Following Congo, the Malawi launch is the second in a series of iGuides supported by the ECA, which also include Nigeria and Zambia for which the launch is expected during the first quarter of 2018. This technical support falls into the ECA’s advisory services and capacity-building domain.

The iGuide project was rolled out in 2013 by the UNCTAD, complementing the former published investment guides which require updates every four years to keep track of new developments. To date, ten countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, including Burundi, Kenya, Congo and Rwanda, have the electronic platform for investors at their disposal.

The iGuide for the Republic of the Malawi can be accessed on

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With more than 1.1 billion individuals without official proof of identity, a myriad of technologies is advancing at a faster speed than ever before and becoming more affordable, making it possible for nations to leapfrog paper based approaches of the past. Yet, it is becoming a challenge to understand and keep up with the various technologies and advancements that are especially relevant for digital identification systems. Identification for Development (ID4D) launches a new Technology Landscape report providing an overview of current and emerging technology trends in digital identity.

Whether a country is enhancing existing ID systems or implementing new ones from the ground up, technology choices, when appropriately selected and implemented, can scale #ID4D enrollment and authentication to help reach the missing billion. Technology choices can also enable identification systems to lead to tangible benefits across a range of areas, such as financial inclusion, health services, and social protection for the poorest and most vulnerable. This #ID4D Technology Landscape report reminds us that additional factors and risk mitigating measures need to be considered when choosing certain #digitalidentity technology. These include the need for proper privacy and data protection, open standardsand vendor neutrality, that match with cultural contexts, economic feasibility and infrastructure constraints.

Synthesizing what seems like an endless supply of information, this new #ID4D report provides a landscape of the emerging and existing technology choices for digital identification and helps readers understand how they work and what technology might be useful in each stage of the Digital Identity Lifecycle. This report also summarizes challenges that each technology can and cannot solve and relevant key trends.

© Technology Landscape for Digital Identification report
© Technology Landscape for Digital Identification report
The report offers a framework to assess each technology on multiple criteria, including length of time it has been in use, its ease of integration with legacy and future systems, and its interoperability with other technologies with results presented in a color-coded way.

For example, fingerprint recognition is fairly mature and has wide adoption already. Others are emerging and include contactless fingerprint recognition, infant biometrics or blockchain for identity management, which are still in the pilot-testing stage.

Smartphones with built-in biometric sensors are becoming less expensive, with global prices decreasing by 27% from 2010 to 2017. With the expected 4.8 BN biometrically-enabled smart mobile devices by 2020, the #ID4D report predicts that mobile identification and authentication technologies will gain more importance, especially in the developing countries. 

Regardless of which technologies are employed, successful digital ID systems must be robust, inclusive, and interoperable to ensure access to finance, healthcare, education, and other critical services and benefits by the more than billion people without proof of ID, as showcased in #EveryID has a Story campaign. Therefore, it’s important that the government adhere to “Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development: Toward the Digital Age” which considers the fundamentals to maximizing the benefits of identification systems while mitigating the risks, and is endorsed by 23 organizations.

This work was commissioned by the ID4D initiative of the World Bank Group in partnership with Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL). Please e-mail your feedback to


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From where I stand: Using blockchain technology to empower women

Olivier Mukuta, a social innovator who grew up in a refugee camp is working to create blockchain technology solutions to help empower women in humanitarian crisis situations.

I always say I’ve lived three lives. I was born in Congo. And then grew up in Malawi in a refugee camp, and then my family moved to Norway when I was 18.

In Norway, both my father and I were working and getting good paychecks, and sending money back to help our friends in the refugee camp. But we were finding that the money was not being used as intended. I’d tell my friends the money was for school, but then find out it was being used for different things. It was frustrating.

In Malawi, my mother was a hair-dresser. A lot of women came to her to do these styles, of course some of them would pay her. But the problem is, whenever there is cash in the picture, this sort of created a situation between women and men in the refugee camp. It created friction. Men had been head of their families in their home country, but the roles were changing.

And it wasn’t just happening in my family. In some families, they fought because the men wanted to use the money for something that might not be a priority.

That sort of gave me a vision. What if you have a solution where the help and resources can be managed by only women?

We came up with VipiCash as a solution. I can send money to my aunt or family and friends and lock it in to a specific service, like school fees or groceries. The money can only to be managed by my aunt because she knows best what is good for the children.

We are also looking into how financial transactions can be done without a fee. Because why should it cost people to help other people? Blockchain allows us to cut all these costs and at the same time makes sure that the transaction is transparent and the donors always know what happened to the donation that they made.

One of our dreams is to help women run their own businesses through VipiCash. We want to create a market for women vendors exclusively. We are looking at this as a way of creating a movement for women.”

SDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructureSDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

Olivier Mukuta and his team were among the winners at the first “blockchain hackathon” co-organized by UN Women and Innovation Norway in July 2017. Muktua’s team developed ‘VipiCash’, an app that uses blockchain technology to enable secure money transfer among women, so that they can have access and control over their own money, independent of the male members of their family. In January 2018, Mukuta attended the UN Women and UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN OICT) four-day simulation lab to explore cutting-edge solutions based on blockchain technologies that address challenges faced by women and girls in humanitarian settings. Mukuta’s work relates to Sustainable Development Goal 5, which includes a target on women’s equal rights to economic resources. It also relates to SDG 8, which aims to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men; and SDG 9 on fostering innovation and access to technology.

BARCELONA, February 26, 2018 – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced today that the institution would partner with the GSMA and mobile network operators around the globe to harness big data from the Internet of Things (IoT) to help end extreme poverty and unlock new drivers of economic growth.

The initiative, announced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, will unlock new insights from anonymized data collected by mobile network operators through IoT devices and aggregate data from smartphone use. It will also call on industry leaders, development partners and governments to work together in building a strong enabling environment for the IoT while protecting personal privacy. This is the first broad scope initiative involving the mobile communications industry and a major multilateral development bank, and is convened by the GSMA, which represents nearly 800 mobile network operators and more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem.

The expansion of mobile networks has created a global infrastructure that generates enormous amounts of data that is invaluable for social and economic development. There are more than 3.8 billion unique mobile subscribers in developing countries; in these markets, more people have access to a mobile phone than to clean water or electricity. GSMA Intelligence estimates there will be 25 billion connections to the Internet of Things globally by 2025, enabling everything from real-time crop monitoring to water leakage detection. Their rapidly growing use in developing countries can produce a wealth of insights for development work.

“The mobile network industry provides the connectivity that is essential for countries to unlock new drivers of economic growth, help make the global market system work for everyone, and meet the world’s rising aspirations,”World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “Through this initiative we will partner with the mobile industry to harness IoT, big data and other new technologies to solve the world’s largest challenges.”

“This new initiative with the World Bank Group will leverage the mobile networks that we have built and the services we deliver to address some of the most pressing challenges that our world faces today,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “With IoT and big data, we have the ability to provide insights that can be used across a wide range of applications, from agriculture to environmental protection and beyond. We are pleased to be working with the World Bank on this critical initiative and encourage our operator members globally to join in this effort.”

The initiative calls on mobile operators to use data that they collect throug