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Drones deployed to boost food production in Africa

Drones deployed to boost food production in Africa

Four hundred and sixty drone pilots will be trained over 14 months to transform and industrialize Africa’s agriculture sector by monitoring crops to boost food productivity, the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced on the sidelines of its Annual Meetings in Malabo last week.

As part of a partnership between AfDB and Korea, a pilot study is currently underway in Tunisia, where drones are being used to fly over industrial food sites to collect and analyse data. Drone technology is also being used to monitor irrigated areas and use cloud computing to combat pests.

Launched in cooperation with the Busan Metropolitan City in Korea with support from the Korea-Africa Cooperation fund (KOAFEC), the project is designed to reduce food imports, which hit $64bn in 2017, according to AfDB.

“We see Korea as a strategic partner with respect to technology transfer, especially ICT technologies, drone technologies, and technology to improve crop varieties,” said Martin Fregene, the bank’s Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry.

During AfDB’s week long discussions in Malabo, the use of industrial drones, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing in pest control management, security, and the delivery of supplies in remote areas took centre stage.

According to Fregene, following the completion of the pilot phase, the project will be rolled out in other countries and regions in Africa.

“Our expectation is that in many cases drone technology can increase land yields by up to five times.”

‘Feed Africa’ is one of the Bank’s top priorities launched under its ‘High Five’ project in 2016 to transform and industrialize African agriculture and make Africa a net food exporter by 2025.

During the meetings the City of Busan showcased the use of drones in agricultural and urban management and their current application in Africa. Their presentation focused on agro-industrial processing zones (SAPZ), a special flagship programme of Feed Africa which will be rolled out in 16 African countries over the next four years.

At last year’s annual meetings of the African Development Bank Group in Busan, the government of Korea signed a $5bn bilateral agreement to support industrial capacity building projects in Africa.

Seoul also topped up its Korea Trust Fund at the Bank with an additional $18m, bringing the fund to around $100m.

Professor Banji Oyelaran Oyeyinka, the Special Advisor to the President of the Bank on Industrialization, provided delegates with an overview of the Bank’s ongoing work to establish Special Agricultural Processing Zones across the continent using advanced technologies as well as investments in human capacity development.

The partnership between the Bank and the Republic of Korea began in 1980 when Korea joined the African Development Fund (ADF). During the 13th replenishment of the Fund, Korea contributed close to $88m, an increase of 6.84% from its previous contributions.

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