Economic revolution under way?

From Global development | The Guardian Thu Dec 13 2012, 06:33:04

Eleni Gabre-Madhin on how a market has empowered Ethiopian farmers by focusing on distribution as well as production

While government leaders, NGOs and corporations devise strategies to churn out more food for future generations, Eleni Gabre-Madhin is taking a different approach. Concerned by a 2002 famine in her home country of Ethiopia that followed bumper crops in 2000 and 2001, the Stanford-educated economist decided it was time to go beyond food production and take a hard look at distribution.

The result? Africa's first commodity exchange. As the founder and outgoing CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), Gabre-Madhin established a reliable interface for buyers and sellers to meet - an idea that has inspired other African countries to follow suit. Gabre-Madhin won the Yara award at the African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha, Tanzania, for her role in transforming Ethiopia's commodity market.

What prompted your decision to found Africa's first commodity exchange in Ethiopia? I had been doing research on grain markets and other agriculture markets in Africa for many years and, as it happened, I did my PhD on grain markets in Ethiopia. One of the things I kept seeing over and over, which I'd seen in other parts of Africa, was just how difficult it was for buyers to find sellers and sellers to find buyers, and how difficult it was to enforce the contract.

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