icipe led consortium wins funding to “unlock” the transformative potential of digital technologies

Pauline Achoka
01 Dec 2020 0

icipe, the Regional Coordination Unit for the Regional Scholarships and Innovation Fund has been selected by the European Union financed ACP Innovation Fund for “Accelerating inclusive green growth through agri-based digital innovations in Western Africa”. Partners are Agropolis Foundation, Gearbox Pan African Network and University Abomey-Calavi. At least Euro 2,730,000 will be sub-awarded to eligible West African entities through competitive calls for proposals. Grantees will also benefit from transfer of skills, know-how and experience.

Unlocking the Transformative Potential of Digital Technologies
Digitizing agriculture is an opportunity to transform agriculture and boost employment for youth entering the labour market. There is need for coordinated efforts of public and private sector actors to unlock the potential of digital technologies, including big data analytics and machine learning, block chain, robotics and drones.
“A food systems approach, which looks at various segments of food production and consumption, coupled with application of transformative digital innovations, is a an important way to address the multiple challenges of poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, in a growing world population while reducing negative externalities on the environment and human health”, says Dr. Moses Osiru, RSIF manager, icipe.
The initiative will strengthen the innovation system for agri-based digital technologies as part of the broader Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACP) strategy to nurture an inclusive environment that is conducive for research and innovation in its member countries in order to  unlock inclusive innovation potential and support their transition into knowledge-based economies for sustainable development and poverty reduction. At the end of the Action, more women and youth should be using agri-based digital technologies to improve their farming practices or businesses (markets for agro-produce and other value-added products) in an environmentally sustainable manner.  To achieve this, the Action will strive for, 1) increased uptake of agri-based digital technologies by farmers and SMEs, especially women and youth; 2) stronger linkages between research communities, industry and policy actors; and (3) a policy environment conducive for scaling agri-business digital innovations in Western Africa.

Competitive Grants Scheme
Universities, research institutes, small and medium enterprises that are legally incorporated, farmer cooperatives, government ministries, departments and agencies responsible for ICTs or science, technology and innovation, CBOs and related groups in the ACP countries in West Africa are eligible to apply for the grants under this Action.
At least 12 grants each of minimum EUR 150,000 and maximum EUR 300,000 will be competitively awarded to eligible organizations in West Africa. The total amount to be awarded in grants will be EUR 2,730,000. Two rounds of Calls for proposals will be made under three inter-linked categories to enhance multi-stakeholder engagement and learning. The first call for proposals is expected to be released by icipe in the first quarter of 2021.

  • Category 1 grants for co-development and adaptation of innovative digital solutions for agricultural productivity enhancement (min. EUR 150,000 and max. EUR 300,000 per project). This grant will target academic and research institutions to co-develop and adapt digital technologies with end users, especially the private sector, women and youth.
  • Category 2 grants will be for development of policies for digital innovation (min. EUR 150,000 and max. EUR 160,000 per project). This grant will target government officials in ministries, departments and agencies responsible for ICTs or science, technology and innovation to work in a consultative manner with farmer cooperatives, agro-processors, civil society, groups, and SMEs.
  • Category 3 grants will be for digital innovation for establishing market linkages for farmers’ produce (min. EUR 150,000 and max. EUR 222,500 per project). This grant will target farmer cooperatives in multi-stakeholder partnerships to apply digital solutions to create effective market linkages for their produce.

Regional Approach for Knowledge Sharing
In addition to the financial support, grantees will benefit from transfer of skills, know-how and experience from the Action’s co-implementers. These will be in form of training workshops, business coaching and mentoring, networking and partnerships building to the grantees, and curriculum strengthening for sustainability.
The geographic scope for the action is The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, including  Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Mauritania. The action will contribute to learning across the ACP member states, thereby attracting more investors and key stakeholders from the ACP members and Europe to get actively involved.
The linkage with the African government led Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) will add value through its clear structures for knowledge sharing and strengthen the multi-stakeholder, multi-country and multi-sector partnerships. Currently the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal are part of PASET-RSIF or in process of contributing to RSIF with additional countries having expressed an interest to join.