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Ethiopia's commodity exchange boosts growth

04 June 2013, 18:04

Ethiopia - A bell rings and the floor of Ethiopia's Commodities Exchange is flooded with traders dressed in coloured coats, waving hands and shouting bids for coffee, sesame seeds or haricot beans.

Following a feverish shouting match, prices are agreed upon and the deal is sealed with a high five between buyer and seller.

Established in 2008, the ground-breaking ECX has boosted exports in Ethiopia, improved conditions for producers and is now inspiring other countries in resource-rich Africa to set up their own exchanges to ensure they are the main beneficiaries of commodity exports.

It has allowed "price discovery" for farmers, ECX chief executive officer Anteneh Assefa said, explaining that previously producers had little knowledge of international market prices and could only rely on middlemen who pocketed hefty profits by selling on heavily marked up goods.

"Most African countries have their economies based on agriculture, so in my opinion, they need to have commodity exchanges to make price discovery (available to producers)," ECX chief executive officer Anteneh Assefa told AFP.

"Some African countries have visited the Ethiopian commodities exchange and some are trying to emulate this model," he added.

Visitors have included the presidents of Nigeria and Tanzania, as well as delegations from Mozambique and Sudan.

ECX, one of only seven commodities exchanges in Africa, currently trades three main products: coffee, haricot beans and sesame seeds.

It has 329 registered members -- which includes traders and producers -- who work with some 12,000 people nation-wide, from farmers to warehouse managers.

It is a key organisation in Ethiopia, where agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of GDP and the bulk of the country's exports, with more than $1.1 billion worth of goods traded on the exchange last year, according to official figures.

Coffee is the dominant export commodity, earning the country over $832 million (638 million euros) last year.

The ECX -- which is government owned, but self-funding with donations from external sources -- has helped to boost the quality of products too, Anteneh said.

"The country is now producing more and exporting more," Anteneh said, speaking from his office overlooking the streets of Addis Ababa, where cafes are crammed with avid coffee drinkers at any given hour of the day.

While not all coffee, beans and sesame produced are traded on the ECX -- they are also sold through farming cooperatives or at auction houses -- about 90 per cent of these three items move through the commodities exchange.



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