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Cablegate: Market Information System Expands Trade, Increases Profits

VZCZCXRO4879
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0563/01 2201515
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081515Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9314
INFO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9103
RUEHCO/AMEMBASSY COTONOU 0647
RUEHPC/AMEMBASSY LOME 0655
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1318
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0489
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0469
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000563

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W (SILSKI) AND AF/EPS (POTASH)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO USTR (AGAMA)
ACCRA PLEASE PASS TO WEST AFRICA TRADE HUB
DOE FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EFIN ECON NI
SUBJECT: MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEM EXPANDS TRADE, INCREASES PROFITS


LAGOS 00000563 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: In partnership with telecommunications firm MTN, the
Network of Agricultural Market Information of Nigeria (NAMIN)
launched an agricultural market information system, accessible to
MTN subscribers. The market prices of a number of agricultural
products would be available to subscribers via short message service
(SMS). By providing prices for a number of markets in Nigeria and
other West African countries, NAMIN and MTN expected to expand
regional trade and increase producers' profits. They also hoped it
would inform the national consumer price index. This project
received initial funding from USAID. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Market Prices Available Via Mobile Phone Text Message
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. On July 26, the Network of Agricultural Market Information of
Nigeria (NAMIN) and MTN launched a partnership to provide real-time
prices of agricultural products via short message service (SMS). A
subscriber would send an SMS to a local phone number with a
commodity's internationally-recognized code and would receive an
automated response with the commodity's price. This service would
make market information readily available to producers, traders, and
consumers.

3. Through its corporate arm, Agricultural Business Information
Service of Nigeria (ABIS), NAMIN currently collects and disseminates
market information on agricultural products on a weekly basis from
some 80 rural and urban markets across Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.
Prices are posted on NAMIN's website. The SMS project would make
this information widely available to small producers, traders, and
consumers.

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Information Expands Market, Profits
-----------------------------------

4. Folu Oguntona, MTN Marketing Manager for Small and Medium-Sized
Enterprises (SMEs), said the service would help producers and
traders make timely determinations about the markets that offer the
best prices for their goods. Households would also make informed
decisions about where and when to buy certain commodities. MTN
already provides this service in other African countries including
Benin and Ghana. This kind of market intelligence is expected to
"put more money in the pockets of farmers and not middlemen", as it
facilitates better pricing and trading decisions, Oguntona said.

5. Accurate information on prices would also increase regional trade
as merchants realized they could secure better prices outside of
their home markets, said Dr. Richardson Okechuckwu, NAMIN
Coordinator. This was significant in West Africa, where there was a
divide between Francophone and Anglophone countries.

6. Okechukwu expected the data collected by NAMIN's enumerators
would be used in estimating the national consumer price index (CPI).
This would stem inflation of market prices, which, according to many
observers, has been artificially driven.

7. (U) Presently, commodity prices are available on the
NAMIN/Tradenet website, www.namin.biz. Prices of export crops such
as cocoa and cashew, as well as locally-consumed items such as rice
and vegetables are available. Traders also have access to prices of
these goods in other West African countries at
www.tradenet.biz/westafricaagrictradenetwork.

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Gap Funding Is Needed
---------------------

8. The revenue MTN collected from the SMS service would fund
continued training for enumerators and marketing. But NAMIN faced a
funding gap between September, when its USAID funding through the
regional Market Information System and Traders' Organization in West
Africa (MISTOWA) expired, until the project generated enough
revenue. Dr. Okechuckwu asked EconOff and EconSpec whether there was
short-term funding available, approximately USD 7,000, to fill this
gap.

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Comment

LAGOS 00000563 002.2 OF 002


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9. Dissemination of market price information in Nigeria is long
overdue. Participants and observers hope the NAMIN/MTN price
informaion service will help in the estimation of consumer price
index and reduce inflationary trends, which has been a source of
hardship for Nigerian consumers. End comment.

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