Domestic animals as sources of Knowledge and Social Intelligence

In African agrarian communities where livestock are part of people’s livelihoods, farmers have forged symbiotic relationships with their cattle, goats, sheep, camels, pigs and poultry, among others.  While the world is elevating the role of ICTs in mediating knowledge, domestic animals have, for generations, distinguished themselves in mediating knowledge between people, the environment and the[…]


How informal economies harness and institutionalize customer experience

While a supermarket chain can have a customer care department responsible for answering queries and harvesting feedback from diverse customers, informal agricultural markets in major African cities have different ways of gathering customer experience. They use their collective knowledge to maintain customer service for diverse commodities. Each market can have more than 100 years’ worth[…]


Are ICTs improving African agriculture or just smearing digital ‘lipstick’?

While ICTs have been part of African agriculture and rural communities for many years, benefits associated with these technologies have eluded the majority of farmers, traders and value chain actors. There is now a strong feeling that most ICT initiatives constitute smearing of digital ‘lipstick’ on African agriculture and rural development. The proliferation of mobile[…]


Formulae for valuating intangible assets long overdue in Africa

Capitalism may be accused of misleading many African countries into limiting the valuation of their resources to tangible assets such as buildings, minerals, land and wildlife. However, failure to account for intangible assets like local experiential knowledge, wisdom, trust, relationships and emotional richness cannot be blamed on capitalism or modernization. While they are ambitious to[…]


How the informal economy tackles the middle class trap

In African countries where agriculture is a major socio-economic activity, policy makers and development agencies seem determined to move economic activities from agriculture to manufacturing. The whole discourse around value addition suggests a strong desire to get rid of informal marketing of agricultural commodities and convert all commodities into manufactured products which can be bought[…]


How African Agriculture is under-rated due to narrow notions of evidence

When economists and policy makers in developing countries talk about evidence, in most cases they mean numbers or statistics. For instance in African countries, statistics dominate the language used to describe fiscal policies and budgets in monetary terms. Factors like contribution to GDP, production outputs per hectare and export earnings are all about figures. However,[…]


How African Agriculture expresses differences between Men and Women

Millions of dollars have gone into promoting gender equality in many developing countries. More millions continue to be poured into gender programmes. However, it has remained easy to conduct workshops and write documents on gender than to address messy gender issues. Several gender discussions and policies are pitched at a high level of abstraction such[…]


How can African agricultural economies balance opportunities and risks?

Risk has been part of life since time immemorial. Even before the dawn of modern banking, risk could not be separated from human survival opportunities such as hunting and gathering food. African forests teemed with dangerous animals, rendering hunting a risky adventure. One would spend a whole day or an entire week without catching game[…]


Using experimentation to balance short term agricultural gains with long term value creation

Climate change and unstable agricultural markets in developing countries are forcing agricultural actors to rely on constant experimentation. Historical knowledge is no longer enough for decision-making as contexts are always shifting. The level of complexity is such that farmers, traders and financial institutions cannot fully depend on individual meticulous planning. There are so many copycats[…]


Why ‘financial inclusion’ may not be the correct terminology

Over the past few years, financial authorities and development organizations in Africa have become fond of ‘financial inclusion’ as a process of involving many people in banking services. Unfortunately, such a notion reduces everything to money when focus should be on understanding socio-economic dynamics. Progress is less about money but more about grasping socio-economic ecosystems.[…]