About 3 years ago, the government of Togo forbade the exportation of maize.
The decision was motivated by the need to curb speculation on this basic food and reach some level of food sufficiency.
Maize is at the base of over 70% of food consumed in Togo.
Togo still export maize, but under case by case authorization by the government.
After 3 years of such a policy, the results are in. Togo has now an oversupply of maize, and food became cheaper and widely available. The country has to build new public storage centers all over the country to deal with the increase in production and oversupply.
Then it dawns on me. Isn’t it the same strategy China applied to its currency to become an economic superpower?
As maize is strategic to Togo development, the same is its currency. Putting the same restriction on currency export might lead to the same phenomenon we are observing with maize: cheap currency, high availability and circulation of currency for local trade, leading to a stimulus for local goods production and trade, and afterwards ability to strengthen export capabilities.
I’ve heard that Africa development problem is very much a problem of courage to take tough and unpopular decision in the short term but more beneficial in the long term. I remember well when the government took the decision some time ago, lot of people were unhappy.
The maize experience in Togo is very much revealing. Food became so cheap and so available that we are now facing instead an obesity issue, specially in the South.
Funnily, in the same time we are facing a shortage of currency supply in the economy to boost trade and entrepreneurship. Why not to try the maize experience, or copy the Chinese model of tight capital exit control to boost currency availability in the local economy?
The control of capital flow might be something we should consider.
* Definition of the poor (person or country): The poor is not he who doesn’t have money, but he who does not know how to keep money.