Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

African economics

The air in Agbogbloshie market, Accra, is redolent of onion. In fact the market is crammed with more onions than the mind can easily conceive.

Trucks loaded with them fill a large square behind the merchants in their wooden stalls that line the road for almost a kilometre. There are onions in every meal in Ghana. It strikes me as strange, because the onion is nowhere near as famous in West African literature as the yam.

And yet, here are all these onions. All the vendors are together. More on this in a moment.

Not far away is the Agbogbloshie metal market. Once again, hundreds of different vendors selling various metal products (rebar is a common theme) are all packed together in close quarters.

Rebar salesmen. Used rebar is also available.

The famous metal man of Agbogbloshie.

Another example--coffin makers. They are all grouped together (logically) around the hospital. The buildings below are all around the Korle-Bu hospital in Ghana.

Business is booming.

Why are all these vendors together? Didn't they consult with Toronto City Councillors? (In the early phase of Toronto's ill-fated food cart program, politicians decided where the carts should go. The result has been bankruptcy for all the cart-owners.)

What is interesting about the markets in Africa is the absolute absence of government regulation. Not to say that this hands-off policy is the result of a philosophical debate--it's just that the government has no resources for meddling in the local economy.

Sadly, the national economy is a different matter.

For this reason, studying African marketplaces is about as close to the spirit of true capitalism as you can get. The local merchants succeed or fail purely on their ability to please their customers. And the system works as well as it can.

In a future article, we will consider public transit.

The mighty tro-tro!

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