Innovative Agriculture

Innovative agriculture for next generation farms 

Sparking youth interest in technology-driven agriculture and achieving food security

This session will seek to stimulate a discussion about the importance of bringing EU and pan-African agriculture into the third millennium. It will address how “farming 2.0” innovation can improve food security and boost youth employment in a sector that has recently faced skills shortages. It will look at how technology-driven farming can play a key role in agricultural development over the coming decades to ensure that we can feed the world, given that by 2050 the global population will surpass 9.5 billion and will require 50% to 70% more agricultural output to ensure security of food supply for everyone.
In this context, technology-driven farming can help sustain a growing population while at the same time sustainably increasing agricultural production. By examining the sector from both African and European perspectives, the debate will look to strengthen EU-Africa relations and develop potential private sector partnerships.
The session will also highlight the success of innovative African agricultural start-ups to explore how achievements in sustainable African farming can be leveraged to improve agricultural practices throughout the African continent.
Ultimately, the session will call on EU Member States and African countries to promote policies that support the development of agricultural technology, improve sustainability, and encourage the involvement of young farmers.
For further information, please contact

Karim Lotfi Senhadji, CEO, OCP Africa

Karim Lotfi Senhadji is the CEO of OCP Africa, a subsidiary of OCP Group, a producer and exporter of phosphates and other fertilizers. OCP Africa has 10 offices and employs over 150 people. Prior to stepping into the role of chief executive, Mr Lotfi Senhadji spent over seven years at OCP in different leadership positions, including as vice-president of shipping, and director of the group management control department. Previously, he held various management positions at both Moroccan and multinational companies, including Holcim Group, Altadis Maroc and Meditelecom.

Mr Lotfi Senhadji has degrees from MIT in Boston and HEC Paris and holds an executive MBA from ESSEC & Mannheim Business schools. He is also a graduate of the Marrakech’s Royal Air Forces School, where he received a diploma in aeronautic engineering and trained as a fighter pilot. Mr Lotfi Senhadji is a married father of two.


Dr Kanayo F Nwanze

From 2009 until 2017, Dr Kanayo Nwanze was the fifth president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an organisation that puts agriculture, and especially smallholder development and rural poor, at the heart of the international development agenda. He has also served as the director-general of the Africa Rice Centre’s Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) where he was instrumental in introducing high-yield, drought- and pest-resistant Nerica rice varieties, developed specifically for Africa.

Dr Nwanze holds a BSc in agricultural science from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and a doctorate in agricultural entomology from Kansas State University. He has published extensively and has received honorary degrees from McGill University, Canada, and University of Warwick, UK. He is a member of the Global Agenda Council on Food security of the World Economic Forum, and in 2016 received the inaugural Africa Food Prize.


Michael Hailu, Director, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

Originally from Ethiopia, Michael Hailu is the director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) based in the Netherlands. CTA is a joint institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union working under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. As CTA director, he identified three priorities for the centre’s work: enhancing inclusive value chains, strengthening capacities of agricultural research institutions, and building networks in knowledge management and ICTs.

He has over 25 years of professional experience in agricultural research and development in Africa and Asia. Prior to joining CTA in 2010, he held senior leadership positions at the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and at the Centre for International Forestry Research in Indonesia. He has degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Addis Ababa University and has studied strategic leadership at Stanford University School of Business.


Maira Dzelzkalēja, VP Latvian Farmers Parliament

Maira Dzelzkalēja is an expert in agriculture with over 20 years experience. She is vice-president of the ‘Latvian Farmers Parliament’ union, where she is responsible for agriculture and rural development strategy, as well as international relations. She has been vice president of the Committee of Agricultural Organisations (Copa) since 2013, and chaired the Copa-Cogeca working group on agriculture and rural development.

Since the 1990s she has been involved in the development of a successful family farm, expanding it from 14 hectares to 500 hectares today. Her impressive track record includes promoting sustainable agriculture in the Baltic Sea region, and an EU-Croatia ‘twinning project’ focused on capacity building for the agriculture ministry. As specialist in subjects including sustainable farming and rural development, plant protection and social dialogue, she has spoken at a previous European Commission conference on new technologies in agriculture and research. She studied agronomy and economics at the Latvia University of Agriculture.


Josephine Okot, Founder & MD Victoria Seeds Ltd

Josephine Okot has steered Victoria Seeds from a struggling start up to Uganda’s leading seed house, which was ranked #2 in the 2016 Access to Seed Index. The company that she founded was established in 2004 to disseminate quality seed to smallholder farmers, with the aim of improving crop yields and nutrition. It is the proud winner of the Uganda Responsible Investment Award, Best Seed.

Ms Okot has received numerous accolades. In 2007, she won the YARA Prize in recognition of her work to reverse Africa’s declining agricultural productivity. Two years later she was an honoree of the 2009 Oslo Business for Peace Award for promoting socially responsible and ethical business practice. In 2011, Ms Okot was named African Woman of the Year, for her work promoting and mentoring women in business, at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship, and in 2014 she was Uganda Business Woman of the Year.

She currently serves on the board of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan and holds a Masters in International Business from Washington International University.


Dr Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Founder & Chairman, First Atlantic Semiconductors & Microelectronics Ltd (Fasmicro)

An electrical and computer engineering whizz, Dr. Ndubuisi Ekekwe’s company, Fasmicro, produces the Zenvus, a smart device which tells farmers what, how and when to farm.

Previously, he worked for Analog Devices Corp as a lead engineer, and served in the United States National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centre. He is also a TED Fellow, ‘IBM Global Entrepreneur’ and World Economic Forum ‘Young Global Leader’.

An inventor and author, Dr Ekekwe blogs at Harvard Business Review, and has previously taught engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and Babcock University.

He holds a PhD in electrical & computer engineering from Johns Hopkins University, an MBA from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, and a BEng from the Nigerian Federal University of Technology Owerri.


And moderator:

Lanre Akinola

Lanre Akinola is the Editor of African Business, IC Publications. He is the former Editor of the Financial Times’ flagship Africa publication, This Is Africa, and has worked with the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa. He is a board member of the Business Council for Africa and a 2014 Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow.