Improving market systems for the benefit of all – Business Daily

Kenya Markets Trust stands at the 1st edition of the Meat Expo and Conference at the KICC on November 19, 2021. PHOTO | POOL
In today’s world, we witness the daily co-existence of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. There are enormous amounts of wealth and improvements in technology, economies and social lives, that people living a century or two ago would not comprehend. At the same time, poverty is present alongside this wealth and development.
A 2019 report by WHO and UNICEF shows that one in every three people globally does not have access to safe drinking water. The World Bank reports that about 10 percent of the world lives in extreme poverty of less than $1.9 a day. These numbers are grossly skewed towards women and youth, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa.
Further, FAO reported that over 800 million people faced hunger in 2020 worldwide, a situation worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Everyone, including poor and marginalised people, needs markets for their livelihoods. For example, a pastoralist from Wajir County keeps animals as a source of livelihood. Whenever he needs to pay school fees for his children, buy food for his family, or raise finances to cater for medical needs, he quickly goes to the market with his animals and trades them for money.
Unfortunately, market systems are often inaccessible and expensive for certain value chain actors and are heavily skewed towards the ‘haves’ in society. These markets may also be uncompetitive, informal and unable to meet the needs of the poor and marginalised effectively.
In his book, Development as Freedom, economist Amartya Sen of India argues that actual development is about expanding the fundamental freedoms of each individual. This, he says, extends to the market systems as the primary route through which humanity trades, interacts, socialises, and gets livelihoods.
Adam Smith, an 18th-century Scottish economist and philosopher, had similar views. He saw the freedom of exchange and transaction as part of the basic freedoms that all people should have access to.
In the views of these two scholars, for real development to happen, market systems must be inclusive and competitive and should benefit all the players, including the poor and marginalised.
Kenya Markets Trust (KMT) is an innovative market leader in transformational market systems development.
We focus on interventions that modify the incentives and behaviour of businesses and other market players to ensure lasting and large-scale beneficial change to all players of the value chain.
This approach presents a departure from the traditional view of development, where outsiders would prescribe and provide what they viewed as lacking in a specific context, to a more sustainable tactic involving working with existing market players to provide long-term systemic changes that are sustainable beyond the life of a project or organisation.
Since we began our work in 2011, close to 1.1 million households today have recorded improved livelihoods, and over 1.3 million are accessing new markets in the agricultural inputs, livestock and water sectors in Kenya.
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By Kwetu Buzz

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