The dynamic Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (www.ecx.com.et) is further spreading its information feed, and now customers can access general information and their accounts through SMS and voice telephone (“Interactive Voice Receiver” or IVR) systems, according to an article in Ethiopia’s Fortune newspaper. This is an information feed, not the automated trading systems being installed by stockbrokers on the Nairobi Stock Exchangeas highlighted on 29 Dec on this blog, as ECX trading is still done on a physical trading floor.
One key aim of the ECX is to help Ethiopian agriculture become more efficient and productive by letting farmers all over the vast country get current information on what’s going on in commodity markets. The mobile phone systems should ensure that information is cheaply and quickly available to a wide range of farmers.
The new system cost Birr 1.2 million (USD72,500) and it lets customers anywhere retrieve general information, including Ethiopian and international commodity prices, and details of their personal accounts on the ECX trading floor. All the information divulged through IVR or SMS is obtained directly from the ECX’s market data system.
Information is available through either “push” or “pull” services within 2 seconds. Through the “push” service, subscribers are provided with information about transactions as each deal is completed on the ECX trading floor. The mobile phone text messages include the volume of commodities transacted and the corresponding value (price).
The “pull” service means that subscribers send text messages to request commodity prices, the price difference from the previous day’s listings, and the volume sold. Both suppliers and buyers can use this system to access their personal account information. The IVR system is accessed by username and password.
The newspaper quotes Ahadu Woubshet, chief officer of Market Data for the ECX: “The seller or supplier will be able to find any information about their product in the warehouse. The buyer will also be able to view his ECX account information at any time and place.”
The ECX, which started trading coffee in April 2008, and long been disseminating information via price tickers onto electronic display boards and its website; as well as radio, television, and print media. From the start there were 30 price tickers in different parts of Ethiopia.Ahadu told Fortune: “The tickers helped create change in the quality of exported goods. Once farmers learned that prices depended on quality they started focusing on that.”
Since then the ECX has added 150 electronic display boards, produced by Wavetec, a Dubai company which has done similar work for the Dubai Financial Centre and 11 stock markets in Africa, including South Africa’s 2 SAFEX markets, now part of the JSE Ltd. Seven display boards are in the ECX’s headquarters (central Addis Ababa) including a 29 metres board on top of the building.
The full cost of the project is included in a loan from the World Bank (www.worldbank.org) under a “Capacity Building Programme of Latest Information Dissemination System Project”.
Fortune reports that Achim Fock, senior economist at the WB Ethiopia Office and task manager of the bank’s Rural Capacity Building Project, said: “The WB dedicated about USD7 million to support and modernise the ECX’s operations”.
Apposite LL Co., a company reportedly incorporated in the US in October 2007 which opened its Ethiopia branch in December 2007, installed the new IVR and SMS system for Birr 0.5 million, after beating a wide range of other shortlisted firms. Ethio-Telecom was paid Birr 750,000 for installing the service. The system was supposed to go live in October 2009 but implementation took longer than planned.
Fortune quotes Adam Abate, managing partner of Apposite: “We delivered the design of the system in a short time. However, the contractual and the system integration process with Ethio-Telecom (then Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation) took longer than expected. The integration of the SMS and the IVR system, billing arrangements, and extending a fibre connecting the system to the ECX’s headquarters were some of the processes that took so long.”
The pilot phase was launched in late December and Ethio-Telecom has made 36 IVR lines available under the telephone number 929. These lines can service 1,000 people per hour.
“The company has promised to increase the lines to 100 by February 2011, which will increase the system’s capacity to service 20,000 people daily,” Ahadu told Fortune.