We all love chocolate, but hardly anyone knows how it looks like before it is coming as tablets into our supermarkets and even less how cocoa is grown and by whom. Cocoa is one of the few crops that is grown almost entirely by smallholder farmers. It is estimated that more than 5 million smallholder farmers work on cocoa plantations worldwide providing a living for roughly 40 to 50 million people. Out of the 4.2 million metric tons of cocoa that were produced in 2014/15 about three quarters were grown in West Africa (the rest in South and Central America and Asia).
About 40% of the world’s production is grown in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) by between 800,000 and 1.2 million smallholder cocoa farmers. With the cocoa they produce on plots on average between 1.5 and 5 ha small, farmers provide a living for about 8 million people. However, the cocoa value chain in Côte d’Ivoire as in many other producing countries lacks sustainability and farmers often cannot escape the vicious circle of low productivity and low incomes, lack of investment in their farms and persisting low yields. Read more.
A country that has been close to my heart for almost a decade now and one that usually figures lowest on any survey or on top of some – but then usually not for a good reason – is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Read more.
I remember Compartamos’ initial public offering (IPO) in early 2007. Microfinance still being considered the panacea to all development problems, Compartamos shares were 13 times oversubscribed and sold at 12 times the book value producing proceeds of 450 million USD. Did the initial owners become rich on poor people’s backs? Many papers analysed this question and an outcry went around the (microfinance) world when it became publicly known that Compartamos charged their borrowers an effective interest rate of around 100% p.a.
With the excitement around “traditional” microfinance having slowed down, digital financial services are picking up as the new silver bullet to increase access to financial services for the poor. According to the GSMA, mobile money services are now available in 89 out of 145 developing countries and in 16 countries more mobile money accounts are registered than bank accounts. One of the most cheered additions to mobile financial services is MShwari, a credit-extension of the well-known MPesa payment service offered by Safaricom and Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) in Kenya. Read more.