Ghana Tech ITCShares
Ghana Tech ITCShares
21 October 2022
Isaac Newton Acquah, International Trade Centre

Linking technology to agriculture in an ITC pilot shows what successful collaboration looks like. A story from Ghana.

A farmer, a fintech founder and a call centre specialist walk into a bar, this might sound like the beginning of a random joke but in August 2022, this is exactly what happened in the north-west region of Ghana.

As part of ITC’s Netherlands Trust Fund V programme, several tech start-ups and IT companies “walked into a bar” to have lunch with cocoa farmers during a three-day field trip to a cocoa farming district.

Cocoa from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire accounts for 70% of the world’s raw supply needed for chocolate. To boost the sector by adding value to the cocoa supply chain, ITC is exploring innovative possibilities for applying tech to a typically non-tech industry – which takes a deliberate, concerted effort. You need aligned visions, participant buy-in and frequent communication between the two sectors.

And this is what ITC did on this first trip. Two teams, ITC’s tech sector (which I am leading) and agribusiness teams, aligned and brought two sectors together – for the benefit of the businesses we support.

ITC is supporting tech-based services including payment systems (for example, Paybox Global) or online crowdfunding platforms (for example, Grow For Me) for the agriculture value chain.  These solutions support the various participants in the agricultural value chain – from the farmer to the various middle men – and strengthen value-added services along the way.

Ghana tech ITC Shares
Cocoa made in Ghana
TechGhana ITCShares
Coming back from the trip to three cacao farms: The CEOs of IT/Business Outsourcing companies Hatua Technology and Eitsec Ghana, and the CEO of TroTro Tractor, an agritech start-up (in front)

Laying common grounds

During the farm-meets-tech trip, Larry Attipoe, Coordinator of the ITC Alliances for Action Inclusive Agribusiness Programme in Ghana, shared the benefits technology can bring to farming, such as young farmers controlling their irrigation systems from their smartphones. I, the project’s national technology coordinator, on the other hand came with a sound understanding of farming thanks to family and friends and this common understanding and interests made it easier to align visions for this new project.

During the trip, the Accra-based tech founders not only enjoyed chocolate bars but also saw several stages of the chocolate-making process. From visiting a farm and interacting with the farmer, to engaging with the largest cocoa farmer association (KKFU), all the way to a chocolate-making factory (Fairafric), the experts traced the entire chocolate value chain.

At each stage, all relevant stakeholders sat down to ascertain challenges, opportunities and future plans. Common challenges were lack of data, a need for call centres, and traceability. By hearing the exact needs of the various entities (farmers, warehouse, association, factory), the tech start-ups had the opportunity to think about existing or innovative solutions.

To help develop digital solutions that really fit the needs of the cocoa value-chain actors, the project leverages ITC's Alliances for Action approach. This sustainable agribusiness model works from the bottom up, transforming food systems through ethical and climate-smart partnerships.

GhanaTech ITCShares
The cohort of the trip includes the ITC Netherlands Trust Fund V teams (agri and tech), the tech start-ups and IT/BPO companies and the Cocoa Buying Company. Isaac, the author, is at the bottom right.

Scoping a mission for success

Finding time to collaborate often involves sacrifice and going out of your way to make it work. In Ghana it is no different, perhaps even harder with the traffic jams.

Despite these initial challenges, the teams kept in touch as much as possible, inviting each other to events, and keeping a close communication channel between all counterparts, including Geneva.

Through this new cross-sectoral collaboration, we will witness the rise of digital services: for instance, mobile payment solutions save farmers from travelling to the nearest bank in town or requesting tractors as a service from the convenience of their homes.

These services should lead to higher yields and a better quality of life for those using them. And we look forward to further exploit this opportunity, working together.