Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Can owning a cellphone make a bag of grain cheaper for a poor consumer or mitigate the impact of a food crisis on a country?

LYNLEY DONNELLY: The answer is yes, according to research in the 2009 African Economic Outlook, which was released on Monday.

SHOOT: This corresponds to the ECONOMIST article I put up earlier, which demonstrated that DSTV was making officials and politicians in Arab countries increasingly accountable to a public who wanted them to explain their policies. In Niger we see that ordinary grain farmers are better able to influence and utilise markets probably because they can organise within themselves cheaply and effectively. Great article.
clipped from www.mg.co.za
The introduction of cellphone towers in Niger between 2001 and 2006 saw the difference in grain prices across markets being reduced by 20% and grain price volatility by 12%.
According to the report, 75% of the population are subsistence farmers who must travel long distances to get to weekly markets, sell goods or obtain any market-related price information.
Grain farmers, traders and consumers, says the report, were better able to communicate and access market information, resulting in cheaper and more stable prices. And while consumers benefited from lower prices, traders saw a 3,5% increase in profits and rural households could afford to buy an additional five to 10 days' worth of grain a year.
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