Every community and ecosystem has a spokesperson if you care to ask
The self-organizing nature of African mass food markets makes it easy for visitors to assume there is disorder in these remarkable institutions. Interestingly, just as formal companies have departments like sales and communication or Public Relations, African mass markets also have such roles but mostly functioning in a distributed manner not as isolated departments. There are people good at speaking about the market and there are people good at selling commodities more than producers. That is why farmers are usually keen to hire a sales assistant once they get into the market.
Governance structures in African mass markets may have their own weaknesses but they have been ensuring smooth operations of these important institutions for decades. If chaos was the order of the day, fights would be breaking out regularly and police would be arresting people in mass markets daily. Instead, social structures within mass markets frown at several bad behaviours such as cheating customers and undermining women. There is enormous respect for age, gender, disability, totems, culture, identity and many other social assets that are more important than knowledge and money combined.
Room for improvement
In as much as mass markets have been serving economic, nutrition and social purposes for decades, there is still much room for improvement if they are to continue playing an influential role in the 4th industrial revolution that is driven by knowledge management. The same applies to farming communities where information and knowledge tends to be dispersed in individuals due to absence of formal structures for coordinating collective community intelligence. While people in cities and towns can visit a community library or search information online, the same is still far from happening in farming and rural communities. Consequently, it is not easy to search for information that is held by a farming or rural community.
In addition to strengthening the role of local community spokespersons, consolidating community knowledge using digital platforms can increase consistent and accurate knowledge sharing at local level. When you know how many people are knowledgeable about herbs in a community, it becomes easy to support knowledge development related to herbs. The same applies when you know the depth of livestock knowledge in a community. It also becomes easy for development agencies to conduct a quick community knowledge audit so that they do not waste resources and time training farmers on issues they have been trained on several times.
Organizing knowledge can actually address intellectual theft
Contrary to some views that organizing community knowledge enables intellectual thieves to easily steal knowledge from communities and use it elsewhere, organizing and making knowledge searchable can benefit the local community more than outsiders because local people start noticing their collective wealth, strengths and capacity. Easy access to the knowledge that exists across the community or market gives traders, farmers, consumers and other actors the resources they need to make meaningful daily progress. Greater access to knowledge translates to faster and more confident decision-making, fewer errors, and more successful outcomes.
By establishing a knowledge management system that helps people access knowledge on demand, no matter where they live, governments can set them up to work more productively. In the current knowledge economy, each community should have a knowledge manager or spokesperson whose role is as important as that of a Chief or District Administrator. There should be a Chief Secretary to the Traditional Leader such as a Chief and that individual should be an expert in knowledge management so that s/he can organize and manage community knowledge unlike leaving everything to chance.
More importantly, a well-organized knowledge management solution in communities and markets can improve the well-being of farmers, vendors, traders, consumers and many other actors including the disabled. Policy makers can easily find out more about the personal lives of farmers, vendors, women, youth and the disabled trying to compete for a living with able-bodied people in the same ecosystem. It is also in this space that governments and development organizations can learn about ordinary people’s passions, interests, talents and other details that can be used to improve people’s motivation and productivity in dignified ways.
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