Arabic Knowledge@Wharton: So when companies like Wal-Mart bring their logistics ability to Africa, it actually could be a good thing for the poor people of Africa?
Cowen: It’s exactly what we need more of. Yes.
Arabic Knowledge@Wharton: Yet there’s a fear Wal-Mart will put the smaller stores out of business.
Cowen: Yes, they do so sometimes, but they do so by charging lower prices. It makes it more accessible and more reliable. It’s not just the pricing at any one point and time. It’s what happens in the very worst periods. Companies like Wal-Mart are very, very good at keeping up supply and being regular.
Here is more, in interview form. Much of the discussion is about the Middle East:
Plus, it depends on which country in the Middle East you’re talking about. So Tunisia is better run than most places. Lebanon has a saner agricultural policy than most places. Yemen is a total disaster. Algeria and Egypt have not gone so well. So there’s a lot of variety within the Middle East. If you think of a model like Turkey, which isn’t technically in the Middle East, they’ve liberalized and encouraged agribusiness. Turks are much better fed than 20 years ago. When you ask a country like Iran, what should we do? It’s hard to know even where to start.
I’m not even sure Yemen is even a viable country because there’s some chance, they will literally run out of water in the next 20 years in a lot of parts of the country. At this point, I don’t know what they can do.