Running Out of Credit: The Limitations of Mobile Telephony in a Tanzanian Agricultural Marketing System

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Poor farmers often lack credit to purchase agricultural inputs, and rely on their buyers to provide it. This paper considers the effects of mobile phones on traders of perishable foodstuffs operating between Tanzania's Southern Highlands and Dar es Salaam's wholesale market, with a particular focus on the importance of credit in the relationship between potato and tomato farmers and their wholesale buyers. It argues that the ability to communicate using these new information and communication technologies (ICTs) does not significantly alter the trust relationship between the two groups. It also suggests that farmers, in effect, often have to accept the price they are told their crops are sold for – irrespective of the method of communication used to convey this message – because their buyers are also their creditors. In this situation, many farmers are unable to exploit new mobile phone-based services to seek information on market prices, and potential buyers in other markets. Doing so runs the risk of breaking a long-term relationship with a buyer who is willing to supply credit because of their established business interaction. It is suggested that, under a more open system than currently exists in Tanzania, mobile-payment (‘m-payment’) applications should target these creditor-buyers as key agents in connecting farmers to the credit they so often require.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-658
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Modern African Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


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