Thursday, June 05, 2008

Marketing poverty

So, according to the according to the FAO:
Per capita food production has declined in Africa for the past 30 years and farm productivity in Africa is just one-quarter the global average. Today, more than 200 million people are chronically hungry in the region, and 33 million children under age five are malnourished.
and we hear from the BBC, Kofi Annan:
Attending the Rome conference in his new role as the chair of Agra, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, he said the African farmer was the only farmer in the world that still took all the risks, often operating without financial support, expertise or safety nets.
AGRA makes an interesting point:
Markets can play an important role in improving the incomes of poor farmers. However, markets in Africa are generally poorly organised and volatile, and often inaccessible to small-scale farmers. Also lacking is the market information that farmers need to negotiate good prices for their produce. Even such basic information as current wholesale and retail prices is rarely available. Therefore, building efficient and well-integrated input markets (through which farmers can buy supplies), and output markets (enabling farmers to sell their harvest) is key to encouraging farmers’ adoption of sustainable agricultural technologies.
All of which is to highlight two things - firstly, that most of the world does not play by market rules when it comes to food - food security is national security, and security of food prices stabilises labour markets (food soars, we strike). Secondly, the state of Africa's markets shows that people left to themselves do not just create functional markets.

Now, I seem to recall reading one African post-liberation leader, discussing how traditional African markets were inherently socialist (I can't remember who) - but the fact of the matter is that the sharing of information is a necessary prelude to socialism - if, as I heard on the radio last night, after a bit of investment Malaw has trebled its food output, there is reason to hope that this programme will work, and the horror of starvation may be obliterated. but, mark you, it isn't sponanteous markets that will be doing the work, but conscious investment, and co-operation. The capital markets have failed in Africa.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home