The Sunday Mail
Last July, the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) appointed youthful business turnaround strategist Clever Isaya as its new chief executive officer. A firm believer in digital transformation and innovation as key business drivers, Mr Isaya has been implementing a number of digitalisation initiatives at the authority since his appointment. Our senior business reporter Tawanda Musarurwa (TM) sat down with Clever Isaya (CI) to discuss about the man and his work
TM: Can you tell us about your personal background?
CI: I’m a second-born in a family of six having been born in Harare. However, I grew up on a plot on the outskirts of Harare. I’m blessed that both my parents are still alive and in good health. I’m a family man. I did my high school at Bernard Mizeki College in Marondera and went to NUST for undergraduate studies. I’m also a holder of a Master of Business in Administration and hold various ICT and leadership-related certificates.
TM: What drove you to become a digitally oriented person?
CI: Digital technologies are an integral part of our lives in the 21st century and represent the future. They are in all spheres of human life and an unavoidable backbone of business. Smart agriculture, big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, adaptive systems, bio and neurotechnology have long ceased to be new, but have moved into the category of technologies we must learn to manage competently and with their help tackle challenges such as global warming, climate change and economic disruption. It is for this reason that I have decided to fully embrace the use of digital technologies as a way of life.
TM: What motivates you?
CI: Navigating challenges through adoption and use of digital tools. If this is properly done, for example in agri-food systems, the result will be increased incomes for the farmers and food security for the nation. So, if we digitally empower our farmers, we would have created a firm foundation for alleviating poverty and improving lives. Digital transformation enables the continuation of the process of human social development and the economic development of countries. The impact of the consequences of climate change, habitat change and increasingly frequent weather disasters can be controlled with precision agricultural systems through pesticide control, reducing water use and ensuring environmental sustainability. These are some of the reasons why I’m pushing for accelerated adoption of digital technologies.
TM: Can you tell us some of the initiatives you have so far implemented at AMA and perhaps others that are lined up for the future?
CI: Recently, we launched the online agricultural permit application system. Farmers no longer need to visit our offices to apply for a permit. They can do so wherever they are on the phone or computer thus saving on time and other resources. We will be launching an e-market platform for agricultural commodities soon. The platform form will essentially link buyers and sellers. One of the perennial challenges for our farmers has been the inability to access markets for their produce. Other digital products to make tasks such as checking market prices and locations, improving farmer practices and gauging availability gaps are in the pipeline. We are just getting started.
TM: Tell us about the team that drives your digitalisation program at AMA?
CI: We are undergoing a transformation that was necessitated by a restructuring that began last year. Hence, there is an ongoing exercise of assembling a team with the right skills and attitude to drive our digital goals. So far, I can say we have identified the right talent to fill some of the key positions and we will continue to capacitate our people with the requisite skills as we go forward.
TM: And finally, where do you see yourself and AMA in the next ten years?
CI: In the next ten years, you are going to see a digitally transformed AMA. We want to take the lead in the adoption and use of technologies to enhance not only the competitiveness of our Agriculture sector but of the whole country. There are several reasons why in the future it will be very important for agriculture to be digitally transformed and thus ensure not only the sustainability of the agriculture business individually but also the economic, environmental and social sustainability of society as a whole. Through digital transformation, agriculture should become an attractive activity on the market, with wide opportunities for the development of new agricultural enterprises and the creation of new jobs and improving the competitiveness of agricultural holdings. That is the legacy that I would want to leave for our country.
TM: Thank you