By Devika Jyothi
Information asymmetry is a major obstacle to international trade and investment in East Africa. While Africa is increasingly emerging as a global destination for agriculture and agribusiness, the pace of development in these sectors is hampered by the lack of reliable and up-to-date information. This includes information on the various agri-products that are cultivated and cultivable in the region, the prevailing market prices regionally and internationally, commodity and market trade statistics, as well as other relevant information such as weather updates.
In its first two years of implementation, SITA found that the East African farmers and agribusinesses have little or no access to information on international markets. Information asymmetry refers to a lack of equal information, leading to situations in which one agent in a trade possesses all relevant information while other agents involved in the same trade do not. Obviously, such a situation favours the more knowledgeable party, and prevalence of information asymmetry can get in the way of potential trade and investment deals. To address this lack of information and information asymmetry in SITA target countries vis-à-vis the Indian market, SITA developed mobile apps relevant to both the East African and Indian agriculture markets. Developed by Level A Commodities, an Indian-based global knowledge management and consulting firm that offers advisory on agriculture value chains, the apps provide SITA stakeholders across the agribusiness value chain with real time market intelligence on commodity prices, trade trends and statistics and other relevant news and information, including weather conditions.
The apps were formally launched at the Indo-Africa Agri Business Summit 2017 on 23-24 June in Indore, India. The ITC Level A Africa app provides news and market information on East Africa, while the ITC Level A India app provides information on the Indian market. Using the app, the East African and international businesses can readily keep track of the developments in these markets.
In addition to the latest market information, the app also incorporates the SITA Pulses Handbook, which enlists the names of pulses grown and traded in East Africa and India in Hindi, English, Amharic and Swahili. Identifying the right variety of pulses for international trade is often a challenge in trade negotiations as farmers are mostly only conversant with the local names. Developed in association with the Eastern Africa Grain Council, the handbook provides the nomenclature and commodity specifications in East Africa and India, serving as a ready reckoner enabling well informed business negotiations and ease of trade.
The handbook also provides basic specifications regarding growing season and harvest patterns of each pulse variety. Now, with the digitization of the handbook and its accessibility through the app, farmers not only have the relevant market information on-hand, but are equipped to take informed decisions as to what to grow and when based on the agro-climatic conditions and market opportunities.
‘Information is power,’ comments A.K. Devaiah, SITA National Coordinator, India. ‘In an ever changing business environment, access to reliable market information is key to business success. The apps brings together all the relevant up-to-date information for East African farmers and agribusinesses, Indian buyers and other stakeholders on an easy-to-access single platform, equipping them for informed trade and investment decision-making, ‘ he said.
For details on how to access the apps (available on iPhone and Android), contact firstname.lastname@example.org