New commodity exchange to transform Ghana’s agriculture

Photo credit: Government of Ghana

Photo credit: Government of Ghana

Investors aim to finalize fund-raising for a new Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) during the coming month. A private-public consortium has been put together to create a regional hub for trading commodities, including Ghanaian institutions Data Bank Agrifund Manager Ltd, Ecobank Ghana Ltd, UT Bank Ghana Ltd and a minority shareholding by the Government of Ghana, and international investors such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC, part of the World Bank Group), the private-equity 8 Miles Fund, and eleni, a company which describes itself as Africa’s “premier commodity exchange promoter”.
According to an announcement by eleni, the consortium partners and the Government of Ghana have jointly signed a Letter of Intent with the aim of completing the investment process by April 2014 and launching the GCX over the coming 12 months.
Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive officer of eleni, is noted for the successful creation of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) as we saw in this story last year. Her model is different from many consultancy models as she is primarily an agricultural economist interested in helping farmers and production while making markets more efficient. She does not see the commodity exchange as only a trading screen, but as a key part of modernizing the whole agricultural marketing system. Successfully improving warehousing, storage, logistics, crop quality and farmer financing are all critical to the success of the venture, in her view.
According to yesterday’s announcement (13 Mar): “A second consortium is also in formation for a large-scale investment in warehouse and logistics infrastructure and equipment in 8 delivery sites around Ghana, as a strategic eco-system partner to the GCX.”
Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama had announced the GCX on 25 Feb in his second State of the Nation address: “As part of efforts to create an orderly, transparent and efficient marketing system for Ghana’s key agricultural commodities to promote agricultural investment and enhance productivity, the Government has committed itself to the establishment of a Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) and associated Warehouse Receipt System (WRS).
“This move is to encourage market access and fair returns for smallholder farmers and to facilitate the formalization of informal agricultural trading activities. It is expected that the establishment of the Ghana Commodity Exchange will position it as a West Africa regional hub for commodity trading activities.”
Agriculture accounts for 22.7% of Ghana’s fast-growing $73 billion GDP and employs 41.5% of the 29m population, according to statistics website Quandl.
The GCX will start with spot and futures trading of agricultural commodities, including maize, soybeans, paddy rice, palm oil and groundnuts. Once these and the related deliveries of actual crops are settled, the GCX aims to introduce other key agricultural and
non-agricultural commodities and to position itself as a future regional trading platform.
According to Gabre-Madhin: “We can think of no better time and no better place than Ghana today to start a new thrust of developing an efficient and transparent price discovery platform. Ghana’s exchange has every potential to become a leading West African hub for globally traded commodities and we are excited to partner with the consortium to bring this idea to reality. The African commodity exchange momentum is real.”
Robert Dowuona Owoo, former head of policy, research and IT at Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission, is the GCX Project Coordinator. The SEC had commissioned a feasibility study on a commodity exchange in 2010 and set up a technical committee.
According to Samuel Ashitey Adjei, MD of Ecobank Ghana Ltd: “This exchange will undoubtedly have a transformative impact on our economy and we are very pleased to
be backing it.”

IFC and Soros invest in feeding data to farmers

IFC and the Soros Economic Development Fund have both invested $1.25 million of equity in Esoko, a Ghanaian technology firm, to help provide small holder African farmers and businesses with timely crop information that can be shared via text messaging. According to its website, Esoko can also transmit weather data and farmer helplines to agricultural experts.
Esoko CEO Mark Davies said: ““Our platform was developed by African software engineers here in Accra, Ghana, and has been a totally local, market-driven initiative” said. “IFC and SEDF have a strong track record of helping local companies get the funding and advice needed to expand into new regions and markets. With their support we hope to export this African technology all around the world.”
Current market information and efficient markets will help farmers to make educated, cost-effective decisions when buying and selling their crops, to farm more efficiently and to get better value for their crops. Transforming the warehousing and logistics across the economy, as was done in Ethiopia, transforms the economics of agriculture and is likely to result in increased food production and better livelihoods for farmers without increasing consumer prices.

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