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Picking Money from the Baobab Tree 

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The fruit of the highly revered African baobab tree is being seen as a great new opportunity for the poor, after a recent decision by the European Commission to allow its importation. According to one study, gathering the fruit has the potential to earn an extra US $1 billion a year for Africa, and bring work and income to 2.5 million households, most of them African bush dwellers (Britain’s Natural Resources Institute).

The fruit of the African baobab tree is mostly collected in the wild from the ancient trees, which can live for 500 years, with some as old as 5,000 years. The baobob enjoys the veneration and respect traditionally accorded to age in Africa, and features in many stories and myths.

The fruit is seen as highly nutritious and a new taste option for the European market. This could be a major potential boost to Africa; the European Union is the world’s biggest trader, accounting for 20 percent of global imports and exports, and a major trading partner of most African countries. South Africa alone exports Euro 20.9 billion a year to Europe (2007).

But serious concerns have been raised about how the harvesting of the fruit will be done, and under what conditions. Getting this right is critical if the sustainability of the fruit is to be maintained, local populations are to benefit, and local use of this food source — eaten by both people and animals — does not suffer.

European food and drink companies are looking to use the fruit of the tree to flavour a large range of products, from cereal to drinks.

Baobab fruit is valued for its alleged medicinal properties in treating fevers and diarrhoea, and as a calcium supplement.

“The potential is huge … We’re quite confident that it’s going to represent significant returns for rural producers,” Dr. Lucy Welford, marketing manager of PhytoTrade Africa, a trade organisation that campaigns for the sustainable use of African natural products, told Reuters.

“I’d say it’s somewhere between grapefruit and tamarind as a kind of flavour,” said Welford, who expects baobab fruit to be used at first to flavour smoothies and cereal bars. It could also be used in juices, ice-creams and jams or bakery products.

PhytoTrade works with South African firm Afriplex, which supplies baobab fruit pulp and extracts.

A refreshing juice made from baobab fruit pulp, known as “bouye” is widely served.

“The tart flavour, the interesting vitamin and nutrition profile and the sexy story that goes with it — that it’s wild harvested from a very lovely tree — these things add value to the existing products,” said marketing economist Ben Bennet, who wrote the 2007 Natural Resources Institute’s report.

In the baobab forests around Tandene village in Senegal, local farmers said they looked forward to earning much more from the trees. Prices for a kilo of baobab fruit varied between 40 US cents and a dollar, they said.

“If people know (that European consumers will buy the product) then they’ll look after the trees better and feed them less to their animals,” said farmer Alassane Sy.

Chido Makunike, an active commentator on food and agricultural issues in Africa, raises some serious concerns about how this is handled. “Being a non-cultivated forest product, who ‘owns’ the baobab fruit? Can anybody just take a truck into the forest, collect the fruit and export it? Obviously the sudden dramatic change in the economic importance of the baobab will open up many questions that will need regulation.”

He worries the fruit will just be exported in its raw form, and processed into products in Europe – leaving Africa and Africans the ones who benefit least economically.

“Yet baobab is a dry, not-easily perishable, easy to process fruit,” he said. “It would not be difficult to have the smoothies and cereal bars that are being contemplated for its use made in Africa and exported as finished product, producing many downstream benefits and keeping more of the wealth to be generated within the continent.”

Published: October 2008

Resources

  • The Chamber of Commerce for Switzerland is specially targeting trade deals with Africa and its entrepreneurs. Website: www.swisscham-africa.ch
  • Food Safety – From the Farm to the Fork is the European Commission’s guidelines on food safety and how to prepare food for import into the European Community. Website: http://ec.europa.eu/food/international/trade/index_en.htm
  • EMN Europe is a company that organises all logistics for importing goods into Europe, including making sure all legal requirements are met.
    Website: www.eurotradeconcept.nl
  • The Baobab Fruit Company Senegal has been producing organic baobab products for the nutrition and cosmetics industries.
    Website: http://www.baobabfruitco.com/
  • The Fairtrade Labelling Organization sets the standards for fair-trade and is the place to go to receive official certification.
    Website: www.fairtrade.org.uk
  • Just Food is a web portal packed with the latest news on the global food industry and packed with events and special briefings to fill entrepreneurs in on the difficult issues and constantly shifting market demands. Websitehttp://www.just-food.com
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

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NSD partners in bitter row over choice of satellite as Brussels deadline nears

DTH Scandinavia

By David South

Financial Times New Media Markets (London, UK), September 21, 1995

The controversial Nordic Satellite Distribution consortium is in danger of collapsing because of a row between two of its three big shareholders.

The row, between Swedish programmer Kinnevik and Norwegian telephone company Telenor, threatens the chances of the consortium coming up with a restructuring that will win acceptance from European Commission competition officials.

NSD has been trying to turn the 1 degree West orbital position – home to the Thor and TV Sat-2 satellites – into Scandinavia’s “hot bird” position. But Kinnevik also plans to take a substantial slice of capacity on the Swedish Space Corporation’s planned digital satellite Sirius-2, at 5 degrees East. Telenor is furious.

It is demanding that Kinnevik drop the plan and also give up its existing transponders at the 5 degrees East position, on the Tele-X and Sirius-1 satellites. Kinnevik already plans to give up its Astra transponders, to the relief of Telenor.

Kinnevik is buying capacity on the rival system simply as a way of hedging its bets. Sirius-2, with 16 transponders offering a mix of digital and analogue channels for the Scandinavian market, could become a powerful satellite and Kinnevik is worried that a strong rival service might be developed on it. The company is thought to be negotiating for six of the 16 transponders (another 16 transponders are aimed at the rest of Europe).

Per Bendix, chairman of the NSD, said that the group could continue without Kinnevik, although it would be difficult to find another company with such large pockets.

He downplayed the rows between the shareholders: “Of course, there are tensions between Kinnevik and Telenor. You can’t imagine a process like this, a complicated business deal, without some frictions which create some warmth. None of the partners can stop this initiative, it has gained too much momentum.”

TeleDanmark, the third member of NSD, has tried to play a mediating role between Telenor and Kinnevik.

One source close to the consortium said: “Kinnevik is definitely interested in investigating other satellite operators for the digital future. The company is known for doing exactly as it pleases, which clashes with Telenor which is trying to get 1 degree West into shape.”

Kinnevik and Telenor have clashed repeatedly over Kinnevik’s refusal to give up the 5 degrees East position, where it transmits five channels on Sirius. The issue has been exacerbated for Telenor by the fact that the mostly unencrypted Sirius/Tele-X package has achieved a better penetration than the encrypted Thor package.

The two companies have also been at loggerheads over the restructuring of the consortium, forced upon it by the European Commission.

Last July, competition commissioner Karel Van Miert ruled that NSD, which was planned as a vertically-integrated company providing programming, subscriber management and satellite capacity, was anti-competitive.

He ruled that NSD would “create or strengthen a permanent dominant position as a result of which effective competition would be significantly impeded” in the Nordic market for satellite broadcasting. It would dominate the provision of satellite transponders in Scandinavia, cable television in Denmark and direct-to-home pay-television distribution.

Bendix, with the backing of Telenor, has been trying to broaden the shareholder base by bringing in other Scandinavian programmers. But Kinnevik opposes the move because it does not think that it will meet Brussels’ concerns. It also does not want to play second fiddle to other programmers.

The shareholders have looked at other options, including one of splitting NSD into separate companies covering transponder-leasing, subscriber management and programming. The companies could have different ownership. Pele Tornberg, Kinnevik’s deputy managing director, would not say what alternative plan Kinnevik is proposing.

NSD has until next month to present Brussels with a revised shareholding structure.

Helsinki Media, the Finnish broadcaster, has rejected an approach to rejoin NSD, which it left in 1994 in a row over Kinnevik’s influence. President Tabio Kallioja said that the company maintained its view that NSD gave Kinnevik a stranglehold on the allocation of satellite capacity to other programmers. He added that Helsinki Media was interested in the plans for digital satellite television being developed by NetHold and by Telia Media, owned by the Swedish PTT, Telia.

More from New Media Markets and Screen Finance:

New Media Markets and Screen Finance

New Media Markets and Screen Finance were published by the Financial Times in the 1990s.

From Special Report: NMM (New Media Markets) Spotlight On The Emergence Of Satellite Porn Channels In The UK

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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UN Ukraine Web Development Experience | 2000

In November/December 2000 I worked in Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine for the United Nations mission on the strategic re-launch of the mission website as a portal, whilst also advising the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Gardner on communications strategy. It was an extraordinary experience on many levels. It was a time when the Internet was fast evolving and required quick thinking and an ability to innovate; it was also a key moment in Ukraine’s history. 

The dangers at the time for communicating on the Internet were starkly clear: on September 16, the Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze was murdered. In 2013 Aleksei Pukach, former head of the surveillance department in the Ministry of Interior, was convicted of the murder. 

But despite those dangers and clear threats from the government of the time, there was a flourishing and inventive Internet and digital economy. The magazine Internet UA (whose editor I enjoyed meeting) gave a great overview of the scene in Ukraine and its creativity. Just as now, the creation of Internet stars who can exploit the medium (in this case sexy videos: a very large online market today) was driving viewers and subscribers. But there was also a vibrant online news media, blogging, commerce and gaming presence as well.

Internet UA magazine: Sex sells and the sex industry has always had pioneers seeking new ways to get eyeballs for their content. The Internet from its early days has been driven by the search for nude pictures and sex videos. In this cover feature, “Internet + TV: Double Impact”. That content mix has become the foundation of websites such as Pornhub etc.

According to ain.ua, the Ukrainian digital economy today is ” … ‘local’ only just figuratively speaking. Ukrainian startups are initially focused on international markets. Product companies are included into international industry ratings. Outsourcing works with clients from all over the world. Global players enter Ukrainian market, opening R&D offices, acquiring and investing into local companies. There are no boundaries.” 

A magazine feature on ‘Natasha’s’ Internet content offering.

It is easy to take digital freedoms for granted now but there was great resistance at the time and, unlike today, many governments were openly hostile to digital technology, online communications and e-commerce.

50 websites to bookmark in 2000.

The UN itself was evolving and embracing the communications and design revolution being driven by digital change. This was the first “dot.com” boom, which had begun in 1997. I had played a key role in pioneering online content for Mongolia (1997-1999) and could bring this experience to Ukraine. In particular, I launched an award-winning web portal for the UN Mongolia mission in 1997 (www.un-mongolia.mn) and also the country’s first web magazine, Ger

The UN Ukraine brief involved creating content that was accessible to users with low bandwidth, dial-up connections (few had mobile phones in 2000). I had been building new media experience throughout the 1990s, tracking the cable and satellite TV and mobile/Internet revolutions for the Financial Times as a journalist, as well as launching websites for various media clients. 

The Terms of Reference for the UN/UNDP Ukraine assignment.
The assignment business card.
The UN/UNDP Ukraine website before launch as a portal.
The first iteration of the new UN Ukraine portal.

Key content created and launched on the UN Ukraine portal included critical information on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ukraine, UN Ukraine’s first online magazine to explore perceptions of volunteering and NGOs in the post-communist period, and content preparing for the visit of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, by showing how Ukraine was engaging with global development priorities, for example the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

The first UN Ukraine online magazine.
Bringing together UN agencies and entities into a cohesive web and “One UN” experience.

One highlight of this assignment was working with the “UN Chornobyl Programme” to develop its web content. This included visiting Pripyat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat),an abandoned city because of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. I have visited many abandoned and “secret” cities and towns in the course of working with the United Nations but this particular visit had the added dimension of an environmental and human health disaster hanging over it (and as a former healthcare worker at Canada’s top cancer hospital and research institute, I couldn’t forget the impact of high radiation levels on the body).  

UN Chornobyl Programme website in development, 2000.
UN agencies in Ukraine.
UNDP in Ukraine.

The power of the Internet and the digital economy to engage people, especially the young, despite living in a country with significant political repression of free speech and even physical intimidation and murder, stuck with me. This work also contributed to laying the foundations for Ukraine’s growing freedoms and greater engagement with Europe. 

As this chart shows, increasing connectivity had a profound impact on living standards in Ukraine and Mongolia post-2000. The extreme turbulence Mongolia experienced in the 1990s – after the collapse of support mechanisms from the Soviet Union – calmed down as Mongolia integrated with the global economy, especially a booming China.

Read about my work in Mongolia in the late 1990s:

High Impact Communications In A Major Crisis: UNDP Mongolia 1997-1999 | 18 February 2016

CASE STUDY 4: UN + UNDP Mongolia | 1997 – 1999

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052

© David South Consulting 2022 

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Carbon Markets Need to Help the Poor

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global carbon credit trading schemes emanating from the Kyoto Protocol have created a multi-billion dollar market – the global carbon market was worth US $30 billion in 2007 (World Bank) – and represents one of the fastest growing business opportunities in the world. The bulk of this trading is with the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, some US $25 billion. But the big problem to date has been most of this investment is enriching stock brokers, and not the poor.

And this is a huge opportunity missed, as some point out: “These numbers are relevant because they demonstrate that the carbon market has become a valuable catalyst for leveraging substantial financial flows for clean energy in developing countries,” according to Warren Evans, the World Bank’s director of environment.

And the way to do this is through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – where wealthy countries can meet their greenhouse gas targets by investing in clean energy projects in the South. But so far, it has been criticised for spending 4.6 billion Euros on projects that would have cost just 100 million Euros if implemented by development agencies.

But if done right, the CDM could become directly beneficial to the so-called Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) – the four billion who live on less than US $2 a day. The CDM allows developed countries to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by paying projects targeting the poor to develop clean energy, or to create what are called carbon sinks (planting trees for example), to cut global emissions.

One mechanism to make all of this work is the CDM Bazaar: officially launched in September 2007, it is about linking together buyers and sellers. This is a place where people with business ideas or projects can go for start-up funding. It is also a place to share information, contacts and learn about how to tap the market.

And two Southern innovators are showing what can be achieved by tapping the power of the sun to help the poor.

One such initiative In India, owned by Mr. Deepak Gadhia and Dr Mrs. Shirin Gadhia, is targeting the 63 per cent of the BOP market that is with rural populations. All of these people need affordable and clean energy if their lives are to improve: most currently use firewood and kerosene for cooking and heating. The company Gadhia Solar is building and selling solar steam cook stoves in rural villages. The giant solar dishes which resemble satellite TV dishes, can fry and roast using the sun and come in Do-it-Yourself kits. The enormous silver dishes beam concentrated sunlight on to a black plate on the oven, reaching temperatures of over 450 Celsius.

In Morocco, the company Tenesol, an electric supply co-operative society, is using solar power to bring electricity to 60,000 poor households in 29 provinces. And it is making Morocco a world leader in the use of solar for rural electricity.

Each house is equipped with a solar home system comprising a solar panel, battery and controller. It is powerful enough to light four to eight lamps, and support a television, radio or mobile phone charger.

Customers pay a connection fee of US $80, and then a monthly service fee of between US $7.50 and US $17.50. The fee competes well with what rural households were spending on candles and batteries.

The initial outlay for equipment is mostly paid for by investors, with the hope that the money will be made back on the service fees.

Tenesol hopes to bring electricity to 101,500 households, and also wire them up and provide light bulbs.

Resources

  • More on emissions trading: Click here
  • UNDP has produced a free users guide introduction to the Clean Development Mechanism.
    Website: http://www.undp.org/
  • South South North has also produced a Practitioners’ Practical Toolkit.
    Website: http://www.cdmguide.com/

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: March 2008

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021