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Brazil’s Recent Drought Impacts Coffee and Orange ProductionBrazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and oranges. The country produces around a third of the world’s coffee and orange supply. In addition, Brazil exports the largest amount of Arabica coffee beans and orange juice. However, with the recent drought in Brazil, the crops that rely on irrigation, such as orange trees and coffee plants, are suffering. Coffee and orange production is declining, impacting the supply chain of both products around the world and putting a heavy burden on Brazilian farmers.

Impact on Coffee and Orange Crops

Brazil is currently facing one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. The agricultural regions in Brazil, particularly the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, are generally tropical, but they are suffering from dry soil and scarce water reservoirs. Brazilian farmers started turning on irrigation systems for orange and coffee crops early, in fear of the lack of rainfall and limited water reservoirs with the dry season approaching. However, coffee production is taking even more of a hit due to 2021 being a “limited year.” Coffee production runs on a biennial cycle, meaning while there will be a higher production of coffee during one year, the next year will yield a lower amount of coffee from the same trees.

This year’s crop production indicates that if the drought continues, it will severely impact the orange and coffee supply. The past season’s orange production decreased by 31% in comparison to the last season and estimates project that coffee production for the 2021-2022 crop cycle will drop by the same percentage. More specifically, Arabica coffee may see a decline in production of “between 32.4% and 39.1%.” With coffee trees not receiving enough moisture and orange groves experiencing ripeness inconsistencies, coffee and orange production is decreasing.

Overall Consequences of Drought

With the lack of coffee and orange production, the supply of these crops is limited. Limited supply and high demand are driving up the prices of both products, particularly coffee. The prices going up for these popular crops indicates that the products will be more inaccessible due to expensive price points.  Already, wholesale coffee prices have surged at a record high in comparison to recent years; the rate for Arabica coffee reached almost $1.70 per pound this year, which is a 60% increase from 2020. Along with higher coffee price points, orange prices are expected to rise and there may be an orange juice shortage.

Overall, Brazil is a large agricultural hub, not only producing coffee and oranges but also other vital crops, such as sugar cane and corn. Therefore, “the drought is also hurting key farming states, at a time when the agricultural sector has been driving Brazil’s economic recovery, with growth of 5.7% in the first quarter.” However, the drought not only affects the supply chain but also the farmers themselves. Farmers are selling coffee for very low prices and have had to even renegotiate prices with traders. The drought negatively affects everyone in the supply chain, however, farmers and their families depend on the income they get from selling crops.

The MAIS Program Provides a Solution

While there is no solution to directly combat the drought in Brazil, there are organizations that help farmers with agricultural technology and even an organization that helps farmers when it comes to climate crises. The MAIS Program uses different strategies in order “to help farmers plan for drought-intensive periods.” Some of its initiatives include modules with the ability to provide income to farmers with technical assistance. The organization provides solutions to farmers, including using the Opuntia-ficus cactus “as a substitute for corn and a biophysical water and food storage system” and planting drought-resistant trees. This program is designed to help farmers adapt to changes in weather and ensure food security in Brazil.

Every dollar that goes into the program generates $7 in the Jacuipe Basin of Brazil, among other impacts. Programs like MAIS help farmers deal with the impact of weather on crops, including the drought in Brazil that is affecting coffee and orange production.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Pixabay

Smart Feature PhonesAccess to computing technologies and the internet are key to economic success in today’s post-industrial world. However, around 3.4 billion people, according to the Wall Street Journal, still do not have internet access. Smart feature phones may be key to increasing economic development in lower-income regions such as Africa.

Smart Feature Phones vs Smartphones

The primary barrier of a smartphone is financial: even the cheapest smartphones cost hundreds of dollars, a cost that is beyond the reach of many people in developing countries. On the other hand, smart feature phones can sell for as low as $20. Smart feature phones have a retro look but allow for plenty of modern features, including web browsing, email access, cameras and GPS systems. Compared to smartphones, the processing power of smart feature phones is limited, the screens are small and they lack advanced features such as high-tech camera lenses. Still, the absence of these extra features allows for longer battery life and greater durability, which are both major benefits for people in rural areas.

Mobile Phone Benefits

Mobile phones can greatly improve productivity in less ostensibly technological industries. Mobile phones are especially useful in industries such as agriculture where agriculture apps allow farmers greater market access and help increase their agricultural output. Mobile banking allows for safer and more stable commerce and marketing is often far easier and more effective online than in person. Additionally, remote communication between workers can maximize efficiency and weather advisory apps can improve productivity in any outdoor job. All of these functions are completely feasible on smart feature phones. Even illiterate people are able to use smart feature phones as models such as the KaiOS JioPhone features an extensive voice command system.

Increasing Popularity

KaiOS Technologies, a leading company in the smart feature phone industry, has spent much of the mid-2010s developing a mobile phone and operating system that can help stimulate emerging markets in the developing world. The company has formed partnerships with large telecommunications companies such as Orange and MTN, which are major operators in West Africa and South Africa respectively. So far, KaiOS’s efforts are paying off and the smart feature phone industry as a whole is growing rapidly. MTN alone plans on selling 10 million KaiOS-based phones between 2020 and 2023. Furthermore, smart feature phones have experienced “a 252% growth in demand in 2018.” KaiOS’s flagship product, JioPhone, is also selling well in India.

The Need for Infrastructure

As revolutionary as smart feature phones could be, the phones are not very useful without a reliable source of electricity and internet access. In 2017, only 22% of African people were connected to the internet, according to the International Finance Corporation. While some Africans lack internet access because they do not own a device, some are unable to access the internet due to high costs, lacking area connectivity and limited access to electricity.

The East African Cable System (EASSy), which launched in 2010, runs through 20 African states, reducing broadband costs by around 90%. EASSy has brought internet access to more than 250 million African people. In doing so, EASSy has contributed to economic growth in sectors, “increasing employment in some areas by as much as 10%.” Furthermore, internet expansion has helped East Africa increase its GDP by 14% since 2009.

The Road Ahead

Smart feature phones are on the rise in the developing world and may accelerate economic growth due to their affordability and digital functions. In the coming decades, these phones may significantly help formerly impoverished nations become major players in the global economy.

– Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa
As of 2019, 11 percent of the world’s internet subscribers are from Africa and only 39 percent of Africans use the internet. However, Africa is quickly closing the digital gap with the developed world. Here are five facts about the technology renaissance in Africa, as digital technology rapidly expands across the continent.

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa

  1. Africa is Ripe to Enter the Tech Economy: Africa has multiple advantages over other regions in developing a technology-based economy. The continent has the youngest population in the world with an average age of 19.5, meaning that there is a large population of young people looking for a chance to break into the technology industry. Because of the continent’s late entry into the global tech economy, African tech companies can learn from the early mistakes of tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Further, Africa is entering the digital market at an ideal moment – by entering the industry late, African techies can immediately take advantage of globalized internet technology, bypassing outdated infrastructures such as landlines and branch banking and directly adopting mobile phones or mobile money.
  2. Technology is Revolutionizing Other Sectors: Technology is not just good for the technology industry – as many countries have discovered, one can apply tech to a multitude of industries. Technology is revolutionizing education in Africa through digital books and online classes with global universities such as Harvard and MIT. An app called iCow helps farmers manage their cattle populations. Africans can attend church services online, solving problems of limited religious resources in smaller communities. Additionally, mobile phones and increased connectivity have already been critical in responding to crises like Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria.  New technology has already had a profound effect on both commercial and social industries.
  3. Tech Education is Booming: Recognizing the critical need for technology-based education, multiple universities in Africa now offer software engineering, computer science and other tech programs that compete with established universities such as Yale or Stanford. Further, technology accelerators are rapidly growing. French telecommunications company Orange opened its first African digital center in Tunis, Tunisia in April 2019, which will support startups and educate young entrepreneurs. Nairobi, Kenya-based Andela is the top computer engineering accelerator in Africa, connecting its students with tech jobs around the world.
  4. Africa is Building its Own Tech Economy: The technology renaissance in Africa means that the continent will eventually have its own independent tech market. For example, in October 2019 President Paul Kagame of Rwanda inaugurated Africa’s first smartphone factory. The factory does not produce iPhones – instead, it produces the Mara, a mobile phone that the pan-African Mara Group developed. The Mara is unique in that it is the first phone a company entirely assembles in Africa. Other African companies entering the smartphone market include Onyx Connect from South Africa and AfriOne from Nigeria.
  5. Growing Tech Industries Raise GDP: The increase in access to technology is critical to increasing African countries’ economies. The World Bank reports that a mere 10 percent increase in internet penetration represents a 1.38 percent increase in GDP for a developing country. The growth of African technology also attracts international business – IBM, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all begun investment projects in Africa based on the continent’s technological growth. Though getting widespread technology access across dispersed communities is a challenge, African governments are coming together and developing plans to move the technology renaissance in Africa forward.

Though African countries are still developing, the continent is becoming a major player in the global technology economy. From international investment to country-specific development, a technology renaissance in Africa is truly underway. The next decade will only see more development and innovations from the “Silicon Savannah.”

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr