devastating droughts in Southern Africa and West Africa to cyclones and flooding in East Africa, extreme weather is threatening crops and livestock and putting millions of Africans at risk for food insecurity. 237 million people suffer from chronic undernutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, a number that rose in 2017, derailing gains that were made in previous years. The message from the headlines is loud and clear:
The business of agriculture and food is driven by data, making it the treasure trove of today’s agri-food system. Whether it’s today’s soil moisture, tomorrow’s weather forecast, or the price of rice in Riyadh, every bit of data can improve the efficiency with which the world’s 570 million farmers put food into the mouths of its soon-to-be eight billion consumers. Digital technologies are facilitating the flow of data through the food system, shrinking information asymmetries and fashioning new markets along the way. How can we ensure these new markets are appropriately contested, and the treasure does not end up in the hands of a couple of gunslingers? Is there a public sector’s role in generating and disseminating data that on the one hand encourages innovation and competition and on the other reduces opportunities for market capture? One place to look may be at the crossroads of internet and public goods.
. The sector is an engine of job creation: , while the share of jobs across the food system is potentially much larger. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025. At the same time, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing mounting challenges.