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The Market Maker: Eleni Gabre-Madhin

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Following up on economist Eleni Gabre-Madhin’s 2007 TEDTalk on Ethiopian markets comes an episode from PBS’ award-winning documentary series Wide Angle titled “The Market Maker.” Anchor Aaron Brown traveled to Ethiopia and toured the country with Gabre-Madhin, where he witnessed the trials faced by her Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, and the effects of the system on the economy there.

The story starts with Gabre-Madhin’s outrage over the 1984 famine that left over one million Ethiopians dead despite the surplus of food that existed in the southern part of the country. Ever since 2002 (when another famine came), she’s been determined to eliminate food waste. So she moved back to her country of birth and set up the ECX to create a trustworthy market for local farmers, distributors and exporters.

In a country with millions of uneducated farmers whose knowledge of trading is undermined by centuries of old-costumed and unreliable policies, Gabre-Madhin has more than enough work cut out for her. Adding to the enormity of the task, ECX was only eight months old when the national government asked them to take over the market for coffee (Ethiopia’s largest exported crop by far), which threw the plan for slow expansion out the window.

This nuanced portrait by Wide Angle shows the complexity of ECX’s economic and humanitarian missions, from administrative and bureaucratic issues to the plight of farmers during rainless seasons. While “The Market Maker” has already aired on TV in the United States, you can catch the full episode on PBS’ website.

And don’t forget to watch Eleni Gabre-Madhin’s 2007 TEDTalk on this engaging subject.