The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the important capacity for resilience resulting from harnessing opportunities in digital transformation. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, interactive online platforms, big data and drones are now demonstrating their ability to drive real development momentum among small and medium-sized enterprises in low-income countries by improving their productivity and competitiveness, and by moving them up the value chain ladder in agriculture, industry and services.
Technology in agriculture for example can help revolutionize food systems and adapt to the impacts of climate change and other crises. This is demonstrated by the case of Grand Serre du Kongo, winner of the HACK4COVID Hackathon organized by the UNDP republic of Congo Acceleration Laboratory in 2020. This greenhouse and off-season cultivation/gardening unit has indeed been selected and supported in the development of an innovative solution in the form of a mobile Application allowing the online sales and reaching out far away agriculture products market. This Application also available via a web platform could also serve as a networking tool for local farmers cooperatives, gardening units and other actors in the sector across the Republic of Congo.
Some vegetables, such as tomato, parsley, chives and pepper are an integral part of the Congolese culinary tradition. However, climate change, which is manifested in the Congo particularly by increasingly torrential rains and floods causing direct damage to fields, is forcing farmers to devote themselves to growing these vegetables seasonally and only during the dry season. Consumers then resort to vegetables imported from overseas, often frozen or canned and sold at higher prices. The crisis resulting from the COVID19 pandemic, in addition to climate related issues, has made it possible to draw lessons and highlight the opportunity to change the traditional agriculture mode towards a modern, more sustainable, and resilient type to face the crises.
With this innovation, Grand Serre du Kongo offers a "local solution" that intends to revolutionize the Agricultural market sector in Congo with the installation of greenhouse tunnels to produce fresh vegetables all year round even during the bad weather and allowing therefore to go from one production cycle to three cycles per year. The online platform implemented with the support of the UNDP Acclab Congo integrates USSD technology for orders via SMS or phone call for those who do not have internet access, from online shops run by cooperatives. The payment of the services is made through mobile system and the order is delivered to the address indicated at the time of the order, allowing the customer to make his purchases remotely.
In a rapidly changing world, innovative and enabling technologies, driven by local actors, are key accelerators to prepare for the future and adapt to multifaceted crises.
The experimental results of this digital solution will serve as concrete data to promote the digital economy that can be extended to other sectors and have the potential to initiate a real structural transformation of the Congolese consumption mode by exploiting the power of technology and trade. This experience clearly explains that capacity is development.
By Arold Akpwabot, Exploration Analyst; Accelerator Lab- UNDP Congo