TradeNet, a Ghana-based trading platform allows users to sign up for SMS alerts for commodities and markets of their choice and receive instant alerts for offers to buy or sell as soon as anyone else on the network has submitted an offer on their mobile phone.
Users can also request and receive real-time prices for more than 80 commodities from 400 markets across West Africa.
Individual users can advertise their goods and offers on free Web sites with their own Internet addresses, and farmer and trader groups can set up Web sites to manage all these services for their members.
The Ghana Agricultural Producers and Traders Organization is a major beneficiary. In 2006, it concluded trade deals worth $60,000 with other producer and trader organizations in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria. These deals involved purchasing tomatoes, onions, and potatoes without middlemen, reducing the transaction costs substantially.
Based in Accra, Ghana, Dr Marjatta Eilitta of the International Fertilizer Development Center recently presented some of her views on how farmers in sub-Saharan Africa could gain better access to agricultural inputs through better policy and market conditions.
The average farmer in sub-Saharan Africa uses only 8 kilos of nutrients per hectare of cultivated land. This is less than one-tenth the average amount used elsewhere in the world. What’s more, these inputs are often reserved only for the plantation crops which are then sold in the foreign export markets.
Dr. Eilitta argues that the marketplace for these agricultural inputs is “undeveloped or fragmented”. Prices for fertilizers in Tanzania are 50% higher than they are in Thailand (and 80% higher in land-locked Mali than in Thailand). Countries also often lack fertilizer laws for regulating use and holding suppliers accountable.
But Eilitta also offers hope for progress. In the Abuja Declaration, African leaders agreed to increase average nutrient use to 50 kilos per hectare by 2015. Eilitta also offers three areas on which further improvements should be based:
1. improve supply systems for fertlizer while opening access to profitable export markets
2. support the people not the products through the use of government-issued vouchers and the monitoring of agri dealers
3. promote multi-country agricultural input markets with harmonized regulations, developed regulatory systems, and reduced tariffs