I cannot believe the first day of TEDGlobal is over. We had a dinner party sponsored by Google on Monday evening and today it’s a jam packed. Later I’m attending a lunch sponsored by Google.org where they’ll mention some projects they are involved with in Africa.
Eleni Gabre-Madhin, is an Economist, who is working to set-up the first commodities exchange in Ethiopia. This is nothing new in the West and also in South Africa as we have had a Futures exchange for a long time. She starts out her talk with a story about the people from Bhutan who decided to measure their Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. African farmers are under-capitalised and only 7% of land is irrigated in Africa compared to 40% in Asia. And hence hunger and malnutrition goes up and not down.
Africa’s market problem is a market challenge. Price volitility in the food market is the highest. And you experience arrested development because of this. There were several examples of the extreme fluctuations of Maize pricing from season to season. And how Africa imports substantial amounts of Maize now compared to a few decades ago when it was the largest exporter of Maize. She draws comparisons with the role and impact of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the biggest in the world. Again although this may be common practise it’s a evolution for African farmers to conduct trade without seeing the goods first. Part of the solution will be to bring Internet cafe’s to rural communities so farmers can trade in real time without physically being close to the exchange.
This talk was followed by a quick re-issue of a challenge from long-time TEDster and founder or Priceline.com Jay Walker. He asked if they audience can come up with a way to create 10 million new jobs. The only proviso is to figure out what people in Africa with 10 million cellphones can offer as a service to the West.