Digital technologies have the power to transform agri-food systems in emerging markets by accelerating the work of participants across the value chain, including input players, producers, offtakers, and retailers. Governments could assist them by deploying digital tools for important tasks, such as distributing subsidies to farmers or managing the inventories of emergency food-relief stocks in government storage facilities. When used as part of a national agricultural-transformation program, digital tools could help raise the incomes of smallholder farmers, increase crop output, and support food security. For example, an e-wallet can help increase affordability of inputs by efficiently distributing subsidies to farmers.

While governments can play a significant role in helping private-sector players and development partners to invest in digital projects by supporting policy and data infrastructure, they are also developing their own digital solutions to support their stated sector priorities. This article focuses on use cases—projects with a clear beginning and end that apply a digital or advanced analytics solution to achieve a measurable benefit—that governments in Africa can deploy to support agricultural transformation, working with development partners and the private sector.

We first highlight challenges African governments have faced in applying digital agriculture technologies at scale. Second, we offer a set of ten priority use cases for governments to consider as they seek to speed up agri-food system transformation. Finally, we identify important lessons that governments in emerging markets have learned as they launched and scaled digital agriculture use cases.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many governments in emerging markets to accelerate the use of digital agriculture technologies to support emergency responses, making the issue especially topical—and Africa is no exception.