Are we at the dawn of African agri-tech innovation?

Africa is often associated with problems such as food security, water scarcity and the need to make crops more resilient to climate change. But as the continent’s population grows, so does its investability, said Kesseba.

CRAF is a recently launched US$50 million pan-African impact fund. It backs early-stage startups in sustainable agriculture and the nature economy. Kesseba, a 25-year veteran of the agri-food sector investment ecosystem, explained the challenges and rewards on offer in Africa.

The continent is 18% of the global population, yet it attracts a mere 1% global agri-tech investment, with the large bulk of that going to just three countries: Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt. Population growth, meanwhile, is set to explode in the next two decades in a so-called ‘youthquake’.

Investors are taking note. Yet the food and agricultural challenges are steep.

“We are looking to support and drive investments to transform our African food system which is under severe pressure,” Kesseba told AgTechNavigator.

“How can we help reduce loss of natural capital?” asked Kesseba. “Africa is blessed with so much natural capital; so many vibrant and biodiverse processes that are getting lost and we are investing in ways to create value where the value allows you to preserve.”

Meanwhile, as it grows, commentators in Africa have urged that the Western model based on mass industrial agriculture, fossil-fuel-based inputs, and ultra-processed foods is avoided​.

‘We have the worst food security in the world’

Africa has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, with Nigeria now projected to be the third most populated nation in the world after India and China by 2050. “But we still rely massively on huge imports. At best, countries will import 40%. That can rise to 90%. So although we have the most available arable lands; the most available youth; the most available natural capital, we have the worst food security in the world.”