Sep 15, 2022 | Blog

Digitalising The Poultry Industry In Africa

Digitalising The Poultry Industry In Africa

This is the 25th post in a blog series to be published in 2022 by the Secretariat on behalf of the AU High-Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) and the Calestous Juma Executive Dialogues (CJED)

Agriculture is an important economic activity since nearly two-thirds of Africans rely on the agricultural value chain for their income. This makes agriculture key to socioeconomic development and growth.[1] Worth noting is that agriculture contributes to an average of 30% and 60% of each African country's Gross Domestic Product and approximately 30% of the value of exports.[2] Furthermore, more than 60% of Africa's agricultural activity relies on smallholder farming.[3] Yet, Africa's full agricultural potential remains untapped as Africa is still negatively impacted by hunger and malnutrition challenges. Studies are estimating that Africa's agricultural potential could be 2 or 3 times more productive if African countries could leverage the capacity of agriculture.[4]

Chicken farming in Africa is progressively growing as the global demand for chicken meat and eggs is rising at an exponential rate. For example, the total revenue of production and exporting of the chicken meat market was estimated at US$ 11.4 billion in 2018.[5] This increased by 6.1% from the previous year. As such, the market value progressively increased by an average of 1.8% per annum between 2013 and 2018.[6] Africa's chicken meat market may steadily grow to 11 million tonnes by 2030.[7] Lucrative poultry business opportunities include egg production, meat production, chick incubation, and chicken meat processed products.

Africa's poultry business is booming because of the continent's growing population and socioeconomic expansion as Africans source their animal protein from chicken and eggs. Despite the poultry industry boom, chicken poultry production has remained low compared to other regions of the world. Notably, Africa produces only 4% of the world's chicken poultry products.[8] Thus, there is a need to enhance Africa's poultry production to match the rising consumption rates. This is because the African continent is continually importing poultry.[9] For example, between 2001 and 2021, poultry imports expanded from 0.33 million metric tonnes to 1.96 million. Unfortunately, this trend is envisaged to increase to approximately 2.54 million metric tonnes annually by 2031.[10] South Africa, Ghana, and Angola account for more than half of the region's chicken imports.

Several hurdles must be addressed to enhance poultry production in Africa and the nutrition status of Africans. For example, the poultry's immunity, health, and productivity should be enhanced to strengthen the poultry industry's future growth across the African continent. Furthermore, consumer confidence, product quality and safety, product types, and vaccinations and medicines for poultry diseases should be adequately addressed as a strategy to strengthen the economic viability of the poultry industry.

The African Union High-Level Panel on Emerging Technologies (APET) suggests that African countries should build innovation and technological capacity to tackle these poultry-related challenges. This can extensively expand the production capacity of poultry production across Africa. APET suggests that poultry production systems should be adjusted to enhance energy usage and resource efficiency. This can be accomplished through innovation and technologies with a low carbon footprint. However, this advancement should be sustainable infrastructural development across the poultry value chain, which includes breeding, hatching, production, processing, and consumption.

APET encourages poultry farmers to utilise innovative approaches and technologies such as automatic water dispensers, robotics, and automated feeders are emerging as key technologies to improve poultry farming in Africa. During meat production, robots can be utilised to separate chicken meat from bones to streamline manufacturing operations. In addition, automation of some of the routing processes of growing chickens, such as controlling litter, administering immunisations, and evaluating the welfare of the birds, can also strengthen production and enable employees to focus on processing and decision-making.[11]

Technologies such as remote sensing can be used for data collection to enable precise poultry production by quantifying weight and monitoring chicken uniformity.[12] Thus, data collection can easily process and enable farmers to automate and streamline poultry production. For example, farmers can collect video and audio files to enable users to have better interactive monitoring tools for the flock's health and behaviour and further utilise image recognition software and robot "nannies". This can augment connect feed programmes to enable farmers to determine the cost-effective nutritional diets for the chickens.[13] Such technologies can also augment farm management software for swine and develop digital solutions for the poultry market.

As part of artificial intelligence, machine learning can strengthen data collection and processing to enable decision-making with minimal human intervention. Machine learning can integrate photographic, video, and audio data to formulate new solutions for poultry operations. For example, the ChickTrack model is a digital tool that enables science-based animal husbandry practices and consequently promotes positive welfare for poultry in animal farming.[14] Furthermore, as part of artificial intelligence, machine vision can be utilised to assess eggs and identify flaws such as cracking and internal blood spots. The scanning of eggs enables farmers to determine fertile and infertility of eggs during incubation. For instance, by day five of incubation, the system can accurately predict fertility by over 98%.[15]

Modernising poultry production can be accomplished through flock breeds, feeds, healthcare, and marketing innovation. This can improve meat and layer breeds by introducing rearing systems to include cheap and semi-automated local hatcheries for raising chicks for one to 21 days.[16] This can enhance delivery and reduce mortality. Furthermore, the full-time containment within poultry houses can offer lighting, continuous water supply, and efficient utilisation of feed. Since feeds constitute a bigger share of poultry raising, an intensified production can enhance affordable feeds at different meat and egg production stages.[17]

Poultry health should also be improved by availing universal vaccination of chicks against diseases such as Newcastle viruses and boosting their health with preventive antibiotics. Therefore, wider access to veterinary services should be prioritised for poultry as they may pose human biosecurity in Africa. Poultry farmers can access these veterinary services through digital technologies to improve promptness and efficiency. Furthermore, commercialised poultry production should involve staggering production batches, the slaughter of poultry to industrial standards, mechanised de-feathering, and reliable egg grading. As such, larger-scale producers should expand beyond first-stage processing of the whole bird and offer poultry parts.

To access more markets, small-scale poultry farming operations should be organised into production and marketing hubs. This can substantially benefit the production  scale and perform collective sales. This poultry production can also be digitalised to encourage the participation of African youth-led entrepreneurship. Furthermore, poultry manure can be converted into commercialised organic and nutrient fertiliser. This resource can be processed in such a way as to decrease gaseous loss to the atmosphere.

In conclusion, APET notes that limited technologies are dedicated to poultry farming. This impedes the progress of poultry farming and effectively scales up the poultry business. Thus, digital technologies can help African countries best manage poultry farming and related business. To meet the demand for chicken meat and egg production in Africa, production efficiencies can improve to meet the needs of the African continent. However, African countries should enhance an enabling environment for farming innovation and technologies through strong investments, policies, and regulations. This can enable Africa to accomplish nutrition and food security.


Featured Bloggers – APET Secretariat

Justina Dugbazah

Barbara Glover

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Chifundo Kungade

Nhlawulo Shikwambane









[8] NKUKWANA, T.T.. Global poultry production: Current impact and future outlook on the South African poultry industry. S. Afr. j. anim. sci. [online]. 2018, vol.48, n.spe [cited  2022-09-06], pp.869-884. Available from: <>. ISSN 2221-4062.






[14] Suresh Neethirajan, ChickTrack – A quantitative tracking tool for measuring chicken activity, Measurement, 191, 2022, 110819, ISSN 0263-2241,