Cornell and Global Poverty Reduction
Ethiopian Person of the Year in 2009, Eleni Gabre-Madhin is the Chief Executive Officer of Eleni LLC, a pioneer in building commodity exchanges for frontier markets in Africa with a holistic ecosystem approach that is mindful of the people they serve.
Eleni previously held senior roles in the World Bank and the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington and will be a panelist for Cornell and Global Poverty Reduction, a Sesquicentennial event to be held during the Charter Day celebration.
In a recent interview, Eleni talked about her work establishing commodity exchanges, the creation of her company, and her experiences as an undergraduate student at Cornell.
The basic rationale behind an exchange is to connect buyers and sellers.
There are lots of risks in a chaotic, disorderly market, so what we try to do really is offer the value proposition that there will be order and integrity in the market, as well as transparency and finally also efficiency.
So what a commodity exchange does is really empower the small holder farmer to come to market in a way that benefits him or her.
Knowing in advance what prices are at the national level, possibly even at the global level.
Then when they come to the exchange warehouse, which is in the rural areas, they would get a warehouse receipt where their commodity is graded and weighed, which is an enormous change in paradigm.
The reason that I launched this company with some other partners was because of the earlier experience that I had setting up the Ethiopia commodity exchange in Ethiopia, which was set up in 2008 and within three years was trading about 1.4 billion dollars of commodity trading, reaching directly 2.4 million small farmers and actually having an impact, in the case of coffee, on 15 million small coffee farmers in the country.
So, a lot of countries saw what had happened in Ethiopia and there was an enormous amount of visibility that came out of that, so we got approached by many countries around Africa but also in Asia that wanted a similar institution set up in their country.
As a young woman, a teenage girl, actually, I had this giant desperation that I would, you know, go to a great university, become a thinker, an intellectual, and try to solve Africa's problems as an African intellectual.
And that was sort of what prompted me to come to Cornell to begin with.
I think Cornell found me. There is something clearly about Cornell that is very special.
Partly because it's challenging, but partly because there is so much opportunity and so much growth that can be explored in so many different ways.
So it helped me focus but it also made me, I think, more determined to get out there and, you know, to find myself.
I think Cornell had a huge impact on pretty much my entire life.
If you get to Cornell, you're a certain type of person, because, you know, obviously it's one of the best universities in the world, most difficult to get into, very challenging.
But I also think that being at Cornell shapes the person that comes out of the Cornell experience.
For information about the Cornell and Global Poverty Reduction panel and other Sesquicentennial events, visit 150.cornell.edu
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Ethiopian Person of the Year in 2009, Eleni Gabre-Madhin '86 is the Chief Executive Officer of Eleni LLC, a pioneer in building commodity exchanges for frontier markets in Africa with a holistic ecosystem approach that is mindful of the people they serve.
In a recent interview, Eleni talked about her work establishing commodity exchanges, the creation of her company, and her experiences as an undergraduate student at Cornell. She will be one of four panelists discussing global poverty reduction April 25, 2015 during Cornell's Sesquicentennial celebration. The event will be broadcast live on CornellCast.