It is well known that major cities and empires have developed around market crossroads. Anam City is a powerful future junction for the establishment of a regional market of unique agricultural and livestock produce. It therefore has the potential to help reduce current food imports in a resource-full country like Nigeria.
Anam has long been known as the “food basket of Anambra State.” This fertile land is a major producer of yam, cassava and fish. These and other goods are cultivated here and later sold in major local markets like Mmiata and Otuocha. Such activities involve more than 50 percent of Anam’s current population in the farming and trading sectors. However, the Anam community suffers several problems making full use of its resources. This blog post will discuss a few of them (lack of storage technology, information gaps and energy shortages) with efficiency as the underlying issue at the root of all these problems.The creation of a new market model could offer innovative and visionary solutions to help the Anam people.
Storage is a critical topic when discussing markets. Here in Anam, farmers store their harvest using traditional methods such as yam barns or oba in Igbo. These structures are wisely designed half a meter above ground and under palm fronds in order to avoid yams being spoiled by floods, heat or sun.
Despite its ingenuity, obas do not allow yams to be preserved for more than three months. This major constraint forces Anam farmers to sell their harvest at a very specific time of the year. Local markets are then flooded by farm goods which are sold at low prices due to increased competition. As a consequence, when the harvest season is over, most impoverished households suffer from low incomes and lack of alternative livelihoods. Offering improved storage facilities would therefore boost farmers’ ability to control market forces. It could help households improve their food supply during the planting season, increasing health and nutrition patterns. As well, this would also reduce the need for loans at a very high interest rate.
Lack of access to information is another major market failure that undermines Anam’s socioeconomic potential. Anam people have therefore massively entered the mobile phone industry to improve communication.
In this respect, mobile phone practices are changing the patterns of information transmission in Anam and are also being incorporated in commercial and financial practices to avoid theft and promote fruitful economic transactions. Cell phone businesses are proliferating in many small rural towns in Anam, such as Iyora and Aboegbu, and are a source of entrepreneurship among farmers. For all these reasons, the new Anam City project is striving to position itself ahead of the curve, exploring diverse possibilities to access information, promote technological literacy and increase livelihood opportunities by introducing mobile phone technology to a wider audience. For more interesting reading on the topic of Africa’s emerging mobile technology and Nigeria specifically, check out the final chapter in Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden.
However, a reliable source of energy is crucial to promote the use of this mobile technology. Currently, Anam suffers electricity shortages and almost all Anamites are petrol- and kerosene-dependent. Both the noise and air pollution caused by generators leaves this community with a degraded environment and decreased comfort levels. The Anam City project is therefore considering integrating solar panels into the design of future kiosks in the marketplace. In a first phase, these kiosks would provide mobile recharging facilities and in subsequent phases could expand to allow access to PCs and the internet. Solar-powered kiosks could also promote efficient financial transactions through a mobile money system, and they could become a source of entrepreneurial activity to diversify household income. This will free entrepreneurs from the cost of diesel and the inconveniences of generators (see the graph below).
In the long run, once internet access is secured, the introduction of smartphones could also be explored as a means to expand access to information crucial to farm businesses: market price fluctuations, weather forecasts, up-to-date farming technology, increased farm planning processes, etc. Altogether, these could lead to the development of future research labs for farmers’ smartphone applications that could add value to the growing economy of the city.
In short, Anam is a resource-full land, but the community suffers several challenges. Storage inefficiency, information gaps and energy supply shortages are major market failures undermining Anam’s socioeconomic potential. The Anam City project is currently designing a new market model that will blend the traditional socioeconomic energy of Anam with innovative and forward-looking technological solutions to push the community further. This physical and social facility will allow Anam to capitalize on its cultural, social and commercial competitive advantages and will help link the city locally and globally.