Orange believes that mobile phones and the explosive growth of apps for these ICT devices are key levers of economic and social development in rural Africa. Mobile phones can be used to access agricultural information services and can play a particularly important role in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of the rural population is often illiterate smallholder farmers in remote and marginalised areas.
A Vodafone and Accenture study from 2011 estimates that the farming populations of Africa, once properly connected to mobile value-added services (VAS) such as information, marketing and banking services, represent an additional 237 million new voice, SMS and USSD connections per year between now and 2020.
A number of telecom operators have recently decided to promote VAS to small farmers by delivering it to their mobile phones. For instance, in India the large mobile network operator Airtel partners with the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative to provide free voice-based agricultural information services to farmers. This partnership has resulted in a triple-win situation: the cooperative improved the reach and quality of its services; the farmers were able to access agricultural information services on their mobile phones; and Airtel saw a substantial growth of the use of its mobile phone network. In Kenya, KenCall, a firm that provides call centre services worldwide, successfully launched M-Kilimo, an innovative helpline farmers can call with their mobile phones to obtain reliable information on market prices, weather forecasts and other agricultural advice.
Orange has been inspired by these and other initiatives and decided to offer VAS to meet the particular needs of smallholder farmers in West Africa.
Fatoumata Doucoure ( email@example.com) is mAgri services project manager in the corporate social responsibility department for Africa and the Middle East at Orange Group. Fatoumata was formerly in charge of strategic projects at Orange Mali.
Catherine Flouvat ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is head of corporate social responsibility for Africa and the Middle East at Orange Group. Catherine was formerly in charge of B2B development at Orange Business Services for the AMEA region.