“Can You Hear Me Now?” Mobile Phones in Developing Markets
By William Vu, senior technical coordinator at ACDI/VOCA
Globetrotting international development professionals know mobile phones have become common tools in the countries where they work, in bustling metropolises as well as remote villages. Market actors and market systems development implementers like ACDI/VOCA are tapping these and other information communication technologies (ICT) to improve market outcomes.
I discovered many instances of ICT applications during my recent research in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria for a USAID-funded Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) project report on the effects of sanitary and phytosanitary measures on maize and livestock trade. At the Ashaiman livestock market on the outskirts of coastal Accra, traders reported exchanging frequent daily text messages and calls with importers at the border town of Paga, in neighboring Burkina Faso. These communications included valuable market information, such as the latest prices for goats and cattle that helped them plan purchases and negotiate sale prices. I was struck by the expanding variety of ways that market actors can use mobile phones as market development tools, including geo-locating shipments, enacting mobile payments, and assessing the risk of bribes along trade routes. Who envisioned that mobile phones would assume such a big role in boosting trade and smallholder-inclusive market system development?