Mass markets, important platforms for crucial social discourse Dr Charles Dhewa

Ashton Mutyavaviri

MASS markets can shape the socio-economic fabric by providing ordinary people with the platform to express their views on the economy and the role of financial systems in improving their lives.

Knowledge Transfer Africa (KTA) chief executive officer Dr Charles Dhewa said if ordinary people did not have pathways for communicating their views to policy makers, they would end up setting up their own systems from which the formal system will be excluded.

“When given a voice through a platform such as the mass market, people can provide free constructive feedback to policy makers about what could be done differently to advance resilient food systems as opposed to promoting monoculture,” said Dr Dhewa.

It is through collaborating with farmers, traders, transporters and other actors that policy makers can understand trading practices and entrepreneurship levels within mass markets, he observed.

He stressed that when policy makers mastered what happens in mass markets, they would realise that financial literacy should not be too academic.

Added Dr Dhewa: “It is unfortunate that in many African countries, financial issues have remained too academic such that people who study finance in formal academic institutions are the only ones who understand issues like money supply.”

However, the majority of people understand how money functions in practice, observed the KTA boss.

Through mass markets, African policy makers should be able to develop indigenous financial systems rather than always thinking that trading should happen through a medium of exchange in the form of a currency.

As shown by what happens in mass markets and farming communities, the intrinsic value embedded in commodities is more important than a currency. That is why one can exchange a packet of sugar worth US$2 with a chicken worth US$5 and still be satisfied.

“A farmer can exchange a bull worth US$800 with a heifer worth US$300 and be satisfied because he/she values what the heifer will produce in the short run. These indigenous notions of value are some of the ways mass markets define indigenous knowledge,” he explained.

Mass markets enable the financial sector to invest in understanding the seasonality of markets, as important in enhancing loan performance because farmers get return on investment (ROI) in the markets.

Ultimately, financial institutions should be able to craft business models in smallholder communities, which understand the marketing season.

More importantly, the bigger role of mass markets is adding value to commodities by providing a platform where diverse commodities get the best value, said Dr Dhewa.

Without knowledge of how commodities are performing on the market and contributing to employment creation, rural development, nutrition, food security and coping mechanisms, it is difficult for communities to value their agriculture and food systems.

With the right data, financial institutions can build a market-informed financial system that is responsive to seasons in terms of demand trends induced by a number of actors.

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