March 29, 2019

Three Strong Women: A story of immigration and its challenges

Immigration to a wealthier country offers the lure of a better life which might end up being a façade rather than a reality. As an immigrant, I am thankful for the opportunity of moving to Canada and the lure of a better life has become a reality for me. However, I recently read Three Strong Women and it reminded me that immigration is not always an escape to paradise.

The Journey

The novel begins with the story of Norah, a lawyer and single mother to a young daughter. Norah is a character who carries angst, bitterness, and resentment towards her father. This is why. Norah’s father immigrated to France to study where he met Norah’s mother. Together, they parented two daughters and a son. When Norah’s brother was five years old, her father moved back to Africa with her brother, leaving Norah, her sister, and her mother alone. Norah’s father returned in pursuit of economic opportunities, however, his immigration separated his family causing them immense pain. Norah struggled with the trauma of abandonment and the loss of a sibling. Many families experience this pain when family members migrate to foreign countries and for whatever reason are unable to return to their families. Immigration can be disruptive to the family unit causing lasting emotional and economic damage.

The novel continues with the story of Khady Dhemba, a young widow who was sent off to Europe by her husband’s family to find a distant cousin. Although the author does not disclose the geographic locations, Khady’s excruciating journey most likely resembled the Western Mediterranean route that many refugee migrants follow. With this route, refugees usually pass through Morocco and attempt to climb the Wall of Shame, as it is infamously known. These walls are located in either Melilla or Ceuta- both Spanish enclaves located in Morocco, Northern Africa. In other words, they are constitutionally Spanish but geographically Moroccan (Walls of Shame, 2016). The wall of shame is, in fact, a double six-metre high barbed wire fence in Ceuta and a triple wall in Melilla (Walls of Shame, 2016). In between the parallel fences, there are guards, heat sensors, noise detectors, and infrared cameras monitoring activity between and around the fences to ensure that no refugee makes it through (Walls of Shame, 2016). Khady, like many others, ended up lifeless at the feet of the fence; she never did make it to the distant cousin in France. Khady’s fictional character happens to be the reality of many illegal immigrants who lose their lives on their quest to a better life. Immigrants who lack the knowledge or the financial means to legally migrate find themselves in life-threatening situations in search of the supposed greener pasture.

Fanta, the cousin in France Khady never reached, was born in the Colobane district in Senegal where she lived with her aunt and her uncle in austere conditions. She struggled to receive an education, but eventually became a teacher at the Lycee Mermoz, a school for the children of diplomats and wealthy entrepreneurs. It was at the Lycee Mermoz where she met her husband, a French native. She moved back to France with her husband in hopes of a better life than the one she had known in Africa. She hoped that she would be able to continue her work as a teacher, but to her disappointment, she remained unemployed. French employers would not hire her. That is the unfortunate reality of many educated immigrants, even in Canada. With their degrees and wealth of experience, they drive taxis and clean office buildings, roles that are well below their skill level and professional training. For many individuals, immigration fails to fulfill the expectations and the dreams of a more prosperous life.
Although immigration has the potential to positively change lives, we need to be aware of the challenges it poses. These challenges include difficulty finding culturally appropriate foods which can lead to adverse health implications, a lack of acculturation which can result in social isolation, and the likelihood of underemployment or unemployment which can unfavorably affect economic empowerment. As a country that opens itself up to immigrants, we need to ensure that families are not fractured as a result of immigration as was the case of Norah, that the immigration process is accessible to more disadvantaged individuals so that they don’t have to resort to dangerous means as was the case with Khady, and that migrants can better integrate into the economy once they do immigrate as with Fanta. Let’s make sure that this lure of a better life ends up being a reality for many, rather than the façade it could become for the less fortunate.


NDiaye, M. (2013). Three strong women. London, UK: MacLehose.

Walls of Shame: The Spanish-Moroccan border. (2016). Retrieved from

Olaitan Ayomide Ogunnote, URA, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

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February 23, 2019

The Resilience of Somali Bantu: Explained through the lens of food (in)security

Jareer Weyne or Somali Bantu, as they are neologized, is a distinct, ethnic minority group in Somalia who are believed to comprise of aboriginals of the horn of Africa and decedents of ex-slaves brought from Southeast Africa. They were treated as outcasts, facing constant discrimination, marginalization dating back through the centuries.

Geographically, they inhabit the most arable and fertile region of Somalia, that is in between the two longest rivers of the country, Jubba and Shabelle, along the banks of these rivers and valleys surrounding them. Towns under this region include Jilib, Jamame, Kamsuma and smaller villages surrounding them. They populate these areas due to the fact that the other Somali groups who are predominantly pastoralists found it inhabitable due to the infestion of disease-carrying bugs such as the tsetse fly that killed many of their livestock especially cattle, goats and sheep. The other reason is that Somali Bantu groups were cultivators and usually grew crops and the conditions in these areas were favourable for their occupations. They are therefore sometimes referred to us the ‘Reer Goleed’ which is roughly translated as the people of the bush.
Muufo - flatbread from fermented corn dough

They typically practice mixed farming and grow crops such as corn, several varieties of beans, sorghum, sesame, all at subsistence level. Some also farm vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, onions, pawpaw, mangoes, and banana.

The traditional dishes of this community contain more grains and vegetables, fresh fish from the rivers and less red meat since they barely rear livestock. One of the popular dishes is Cambulo – A mix of corn, or sorghum and beans, steamed together, drizzled with sugar and sesame oil.
Soor served with fish stew

Another popular dish is Soor (grits), a grounded cornmeal that is boiled in water and allowed to solidify, served with vegetable and/or fish stew. It is a variation of the Italian Polenta, and the Kenyan Ugali.  Muufo, another delicacy of the Somali-Bantus’, is a flatbread made of fermented corn flour dough, baked in a cylindrical-shaped charcoal oven, the Tinaar. The dough is usually stuck to the inside walls of the oven and allowed to bake for some minutes. It is also served with vegetable and/or fish stew.

Fish stew

Plantain is another household side dish among the Somali Bantus. Unlike, the other Somali groups who heavily consume bananas, this community grow and eat plantain prepared in different styles; some roast it, others fry it up and all serve it as a tangy side dish for their grits and cornbread.

While these dishes were traditionally unique for the Somali Bantus, the other Somali groups started appreciating them and, in these days, they are very common household items for all groups in Somalia.

When the civil war broke out in the early 1990s, the Somali Bantu like the other minority groups were especially vulnerable to attacks, lootings, and rapes as they were easily identifiable due to their distinct physical appearance and dialect. They were, therefore, more negatively affected than many others during the civil war.

As a consequence, many fled to neighbouring countries, especially Kenya, seeking asylum. Many of these settled in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, a complex that hosts the largest number of Somali refugees. Dadaab, unlike their previous vicinities, is semi-arid and dry, with inadequate rainfall, hence it is unfavourable for farming. Since there were no water bodies nearby, this also meant that there could be no fishing activities. Those conditions forced them to evolve their diet to whatever was available.

In the camp, apart from the food insecurity and diet challenges, the Somali Bantu group faced regular threats from bandits, as well as continued segregation and marginalization from their fellow Somali refugees. They were subjected to this robbery since they lacked sufficient protection that the other groups enjoyed.

After about a decade of these rampant challenges and persecution, many of them were eventually resettled in the United States. Today, members of this group many of whom reside in Lewiston, Maine, are attempting to revive their culture and traditional food by creating a farming and food truck co-operative, where they serve Somali Bantu dishes prepared from harvests picked from their farms.

Luqman Osman, URA, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph, Canada
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February 7, 2019

Nsenene, Uganda’s Healthy Delicacy

Have you ever tasted grasshoppers? What!  Grasshoppers! How can you eat insects? The spontaneous response and dramatic facial expression tell it all.  Disgust and queasiness!  I love asking this question, anticipating the usual natural response.  The innocent question that sets the stage for conflicting attitudes, exposing the beauty of cultural diversity.

Oh God, as the weather gets colder, I cuddle in my couch and the craving for those delicious, crunchy, crispy hoppers served with a warm cup of unadulterated warm milk is irresistible.  Nothing at that moment can substitute for my yearning for grasshoppers, not even a hot chocolate from Tim Horton.

“Nsenene”, as commonly referred to in the Ugandan dialects are the long-horned grasshoppers that exist in swarms in Uganda.  Nsenene usually come out at full moon with increased numbers after heavy rains. These grasshoppers therefore swarm in the rainy seasons of April to June with the peak season from November to December. My heightened cravings for these goodies come as no coincidence to the cold months of December.    

Crispy roasted grasshoppers. 

The grasshopper tradition in Uganda is older than Uganda.  To appreciate the tradition, the month of November known as “omwezi gwa Musenene, which means the month of grasshoppers, is a reflection of the intimate connection that exists between the people and their grasshoppers.”  A clan named after the grasshoppers, the nsenene clan, is a constant reminder of the importance placed in the grasshoppers.  Unfortunate for this clan, they cannot partake the goodies.

Ugandans consume nsenene as a snack with tea or local beef or as a protein at meals served with a carbohydrate.  The nsenene are cleaned before roasting, a process involving removal of wings and legs.   Once cleaned, the grasshoppers are then roasted with minimal addition of fat since these insects produce their own fat.  To add taste, little salt, onions and spices are added.  Nsenene are rich in protein, fat and fibre making them a cheap but healthy substitute for animal protein especially for the less privileged.

Traditionally, children and women collect nsenene in small numbers for subsistence use.  These grasshoppers are more active at night and are attracted to light making them more active around well-lit areas. The grasshoppers are very easy to collect by quickly grabbing them as they rest on vegetation or fly about.   Originally, families went out to hunt for nsenene at night with a source of light. The commonly used source of light was an improvised light made from elephant grass, “emuuli”. The elephant grass stems were bundled and lit.  These slowly burnt away giving off a bright flame, which attracted the grasshoppers while the smoke from the grass intoxicated the grasshoppers. Others used flashlights or lanterns as a source of light. Women and children collected the grasshoppers.

Whereas grasshopper hunting was an exciting venture for kids, as it enabled them to be out with the older ones at night, for the women it was an opportunity to show their diligence to their husbands.  Husbands expected their wives to collect grasshoppers and in return, the husbands bought their wives a Christmas gift, “gomesi”, a traditional attire worn by women, and Christmas wear for the children. Although the women worked hard to catch the grasshoppers, tradition did not allow women to eat the grasshoppers.  Like most delicious foods, men and boys only, ate grasshoppers. 

Today the grasshopper tradition has taken a completely new turn, with the collection transforming from subsistence to commercial, more men engaged in the business and women claiming their full share of the relishing taste of the grasshoppers. The improved method of grasshopper collection has attributed to this transformation.

Packaged roasted grasshoppers. 

Initially children and women ran after the grasshoppers grabbing them as they flew past. This allowed for only a few kilos of grasshoppers caught in a season.  The high demand for grasshoppers has seen an improvement in the methods used to catch the grasshoppers and a hike in the price.  A kilo of grasshoppers goes for about 40,000/= Ugandan shillings an equivalent of US$ 10.76.  Improved methods have seen a move from running after the grasshoppers with emuuli, flashlights and lanterns to use of electric light bulbs as traps. 

Large buckets with light bulbs placed above the buckets to attract the grasshoppers are used as traps for the grasshoppers.  Tapering slippery metal panels are connected to the buckets.  These metal panels allow easy entry of the grasshoppers.  The buckets make it impossible for the grasshoppers to crawl out of the buckets.  Once in the buckets the grasshoppers are unable to fly out due to the slippery nature of the panels. This method has resulted in large catches hence transforming the business from small catches for local markets to commercial grasshopper collection aimed for large markets in the city.   

The lucrative grasshopper business has enabled many families educate their children, build decent homes and buy cars. Grasshoppers have also moved from an evening snack with tea at home to a snack served in bars and eateries in the city. Preservation methods promote the constant supply of the delicacy all year round.  Unfortunately, because of the high prices, grasshopper consumption has moved to the financially privileged leaving the rural poor deprived of the cheap source of protein. Although the grasshopper business is lucrative in Uganda, the focus of this business has remained mainly on the Ugandan market.  Traders have made little effort to penetrate the international market leaving this wonderful snack forgotten on the shelves of the Ugandan market.  Improved processing and package may promote the consumption of the grasshopper on the international market including kosher consumers.       

Today as I sit in the cold of my living room, memories linger of the evening snack in Uganda.  Attempts to bring in some of this wonderful snack have proved fruitless at ports of entry.  I live for that time when the grasshopper packaging industry in Uganda will meet the international standards to enable the free movement of my grasshoppers to Canada.  Till then my question remains . . .
Yes, how many would love to taste these delicious hopping insects!  

Christine Kajumba, Guest Contributor, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph.

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January 13, 2019

Halal Food: Conception, Misconceptions and Certification

Halal means permissible in the Islamic religion and it defines what is appropriate for Muslims in their day-to-day activities. Foods that are forbidden include certain animals, alcohol and other intoxicants, blood meal, and meals prepared in ways that negate the tenets of halal.  Most foods are halal except otherwise stated. This article intends to expand our horizon about halal food and resolve some of the misconceptions. It is interesting that many cultures practice food processing methods that resemble the steps in halal even though it is hidden. There are similarities among halal, kosher, and foods that are non-taboo or culturally appropriate in certain cultures.

Halal Akawie cheese, Middle Eastern white brine cheese at Ammar Halal Meats
A percentage of halal

When we started our research about asymmetric information in the halal food market, we thought it will be a straightforward process. We learned that some people consume halal because it is expected of them, but they don’t know the benefits. Others consume presumed halal food without necessarily ascertaining whether the production is consistently halal. It is also important to emphasize that most people are unaware of the health benefits of halal food and the halal requirement that livestock are treated humanely. This assumes that those who produce the halal food follow the stipulated standards. Globally, people try as much as possible to be inclusive by making sure their food is halal. This is an indication of the relevance of the minority rule. The Mutooro people and other sub-groups in Uganda have very few Muslims but they usually invite a Muslim to say a prayer before an animal is slaughtered. This is expected to make ceremonies such as weddings, burials and birthdays inclusive. There is a misconception here because an animal slaughtered by people of the book, Jews, Christians and Muslims, are acceptable as halal (Quran chapter 5, v5; Regenstein, 2003). But since most people are unaware it is better to get a Muslim to slaughter the animal in a humane way.  Commercial meats, especially beef, are slaughtered by Muslims, for example, in Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria. (It’s a family business and people are taught how to slaughter animals at a very tender age. The process is partly cultural partly halal).

Moreover, the Maasai people ensure that the blood of a slaughtered animal is well drained (consistent with kosher and halal) before they start the skinning, but they drink the blood or process it as seen with the Oromos of East Africa. Blood is not permissible under the tenets of halal. An indication that animals raised on blood meal and slaughter house waste are not halal. It is also interesting that the Ijebu people of western Nigeria will make sure that the animal faces the east before it is slaughtered. They go a step further by adding salt to the throat of the slaughtered to ensure that the animal’s blood is well drained – a step that makes the process closer to kosher in terms of removal of blood. It doesn’t matter what they believe, the common knowledge is that meat processed in this manner tastes better and shelf life is extended.

The standards posited under halal are not entirely peculiar to halal. Some of the standards are like kosher and other cultural taboos worldwide. For example, there is an adage  by the Yorubas of Nigeria and West Africa which states that “Aki ipa igun, a ki i je igun, a ki i fi igun bori” – (one does not kill the vulture; one does not eat the vulture; one does not offer the vulture as a sacrifice to one's head). In the Yoruba culture, vultures are not acceptable as an edible meat. They are also forbidden under the Islamic jurisprudence.

Some misconceptions

There are many health benefits of halal food consumption, but people don’t seem to discern it.  Some animals are prohibited because they are disease vectors, draining of blood will remove toxins, carrions are dangerous to human, intoxicants affect our gumption – negative impact on our judgement, and the process if followed avoid contamination during food production. There are also similarities between halal and kosher although alcohol is forbidden in halal but not under kosher. Grasshopper is the only visible insects permissible in kosher while insects are neutral in halal. Camel is halal but non-kosher. The halal process also stipulates that animals should be treated humanely, slaughtering should not be done in front of other livestock and stress should be reduced to a minimum. Halal is sustainable because livestock are not supposed to be raised on slaughter waste, blood meal or any kind of filthy feed. Hand slaughter is the best, but some scholars allow machine slaughter because of mass production. The issue of stunning is also controversial. Even though some scholars support stunning there are practical challenges with its use in slaughter houses. Some animals are still alive and stunning may not necessarily lead to sudden death. With hand slaughter the cutting of three out of the four passages, carotids, oesophagus, jugular veins, and trachea, of the throat with a sharp knife will lead to sudden death (Regenstein 2003, direct observation).

Asymmetric information

Imperfect information is present in most markets, homogenous or heterogeneous, and that is why people may end up purchasing a “lemon”. It is prevalent because the bad will crowd out the good when sellers have more information than the buyers, especially in the presence of a budget constraint. In other words, cheap becomes expensive in the long run. The level of asymmetric information (LAI), a measure of opacity, can be reduced by moving the market from a state of imperfect information towards perfect information. In the halal food market, the level of asymmetric information can be resolved by adequate consumer education, third party monitoring by certifying bodies regulated by the government, crypto-labelling (authenticity, transparency, and transparency enhanced via blockchain), and workable and desirable regulations that guarantees food safety. 

Lamb Loin Chops at Arabesque Restaurant

As we explore the food market, we have discovered that reduction of LAI translates to authentic food. This implies that opacity and food authenticity are inversely related. Highly opaque "food" may in fact be made up of very little agricultural produce (understood to be the traditional source of food) and contain a high degree of artificial, chemically-modified, processed ingredients which results in an industrial food-like substance or food substitute. Extra-ecological commodities associated with mono-culture, possibly genetically modified and of dubious nutritional value.[1] Opacity is a challenge in the food market including halal because of the points below:

1.      It is difficult to monitor the activities of the producers, processors, and marketers – Moral Hazard.

2.      More complex in big organizations because the interest of the managers (agent) are not necessarily the objectives of the owners (principal) – Principal-Agent Problem.

3.      Low quality foods are cheaper; thus, consumers will buy because of their budget constraints – Adverse Selection.

4.      Logo and the certification process may be compromised – Signalling is not necessarily a panacea.

The power of minority

A farming couple from Windsor, Ontario once told me “Halal is not a niche market because we all eat shawarma”. Some people from non-Muslim backgrounds are willing to pay a premium because of their appreciation of the health benefits of authentic halal food.  Economist Nassim Taleb (e.g. Skin in the Game) also alluded to the fact that halal may become mainstream.  A stubborn minority can make a significant impact and influence the decision of the majority. We have seen cases where party organizers will cook only halal chicken and avoid pork because two out of the twenty people on the guest list eat only halal. It seems there will be an increase in the demand for halal food in the future.

There is an adage in the Yoruba culture that states that “Bi oni ti ri, ola ki ri be, li o mu ki Babalawo ma da Ifa ororun (Today’s situation is not the same as tomorrow, so the Babalawo consults the oracle every five days)”. This indicates that change is the only thing that is constant. Even though the future is difficult to predict, halal food may become mainstream because of our love for shawarma, the minority rule and food safety.  

*Special thanks to Warsame Warsame, Christine Kajumba, Richard Bankole, Jeremiah Saringe, Wondimu Gashaw, and Dan Maitland.


Regenstein J. M., Chaudry M. M., and Regenstein C. E. (2003). The Kosher and Halal Food Laws. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 2:111-127.

Taleb, N.N. (2018). Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. New York: Allen Lane.

Bamidele Adekunle, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

[1] This explanation is based on a comment I received from Dan Maitland the first time he saw the framework.
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October 8, 2018

Food Sovereignty & Cryptolabelling - A short Video

The video below provides a glimpse into the challenges refugee path immigrants face in terms of their food sovereignty:

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September 16, 2018

Asymmetric Information in the Halal Food Market - A Research Project

Understanding Halal Food: A Glimpse ...

People consume food not only to satisfy hunger but also for cultural, religious and social reasons. In Islam there is an emphasis on cleanliness in both spirit and food (Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, 2011), and eating is viewed as a form of worship (Talib, Hamid, & Chin, 2015). Halal food is based on Islamic dietary law derived from the Quran, Hadith (the practices of the Prophet Mohammad), Ijma (a consensus of legal opinion), and Qiyas (reasoning by analogy) (Regenstein, Chaudry & Regenstein, 2003). Halal goes beyond religious obligation; it is part of the Islamic way of life which includes not only dietary requirements, but also behaviour, speech, dress, and conduct (Talib, Hamid, & Zulfakar, 2015a). Furthermore, observing the tenets of halal can guarantee food safety and serve a business model for the Canadian export market. The benefit of halal notwithstanding, the lack of trust in the market has led to challenges such as authenticity and traceability.  This situation affects the different cultural groups that have migrated to the Canada, especially the Somalis, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghanis and other Canadians who are in love with the taste of halal meat. Based on this premise, there is a need for policies that will strengthen the value chain of halal food and reduce asymmetric information.

Objectives of the research

The specific objectives of this research are
-To examine the trend in the production, marketing and consumption of halal meat in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
- To develop a conceptual framework which explains the relationship among variables such as trust, food safety, religious affiliation, authenticity, traceability, crypto labelling, government legislation, and consumption with respect to halal meat. 
-To assess the relationship between trust and traceability regarding halal meat.
-To identify the factors that affect asymmetric information in the halal meat sector in the GTA.
Anticipated significance and impacts of the proposed work

This study will lead to a better understanding of the halal food landscape, a list of conditions that ensure trust in the sector, demand estimates and policies that strengthens the value chain of the halal meat sector. It will benefit people within and outside the academic sector because it will proffer solutions on how to reduce asymmetric information in the halal and other food sectors. Overall, this study will be participatory and enable community based economic development.

Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. (2011, April). Global pathfinder report: halal food trends. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Retrieved from

Regenstein J. M, Chaudry M. M & C. E. Regenstein (2003) The Kosher and Halal Food Laws. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 2: 111-127.

Talib, M. S. A., Hamid, A. B. A., & Zulfakar, M. H.  (2015a). Halal supply chain critical success factors: a literature review. Journal of Islamic Marketing, 6(1), 44-71. Retrieved from

Bamidele Adekunle, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

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July 7, 2018

Autonomous Vehicles and Agri-Food Value Chain

Robotaxis, shared autonomous vehicles (AV), will transform the future of international trade especially the agri-food value chain within a country and across borders. In few years, people will board robotaxis by scanning a Quick Response (QR) Code with a standardized app such as Alipay or WeChat pay, or a prepayment through the company website or app. Farmers, processors, and vendors can easily car pool and the delivery of processed and raw foods will be done by stakeholders coming together to work jointly to get to the farm, share delivery like my family friends’ organic coop, and import and export produce together at a reduced rate through profit sharing. This is especially important where freight is transported across borders via land. According to Fagnant and Kockelman, autonomous vehicles may lead to safer roads, reduce traffic congestion, and a maximum of $US4750 societal benefit per AV in a year. The associated costs are liability and privacy concerns.

Autonomous Vehicle
Autonomous vehicles, driverless vehicles, are becoming popular though with reservation from certain quarters on the issue of employment and the limits of automation. In order not to be a laggard, most automobile companies have started working on their AV. Though research and development is at intense level the first set of AV will probably be shared by consumers as ride hailing and ride pooling services – to recoup the cost of production until the innovation becomes cheap to procure. Examples are Waymo’s activities in Phoenix, Arizona, Uber’s in Phoenix and Pittsburgh – though temporarily stalled as result of a fatal accident, Voyage’s services in retirement homes in San Jose, California and Florida. Navya, a French company is already shuttling downtown, Las Vegas. Another French company, Easymile, is operating in 20 countries (Asia Pacific, Middle East, North America, and Europe) with it’s EZ 10 driverless shuttles.

The market has few players so it is oligopolistic and new players may be disinterested because of entry barriers associated with AV. The leader in the market is Waymo, which is active in both hardware and software development. Nvidia, Mobileye are other big players in the hardware sector while Aptiv is a top software developer. The degree of automation varies. Some, for example, Shenzhen Haylion Technologies, have tested only a few kilometers. Players in Sweden, such as Nobina and Ericson, are not completely autonomous because of regulation while Waymo is already using its mini-vans to transport people in Phoenix, Arizona to their daily activities.

Limits of automation
As we explore the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the mobility of people, we should take in to consideration that people drive for many reasons including their freedom, convenience, as a signaling device and to be respected by their friends and family. Furthermore, AV will create a disruption in the trucking business and enable little or no need for professional drivers. My interactions with several people including students (in business schools and development programs), professionals and, friends come with a little bit of reservation. Concerns include “what will people do?” “Why do we need AV?” “What are the ethical implications?” “You guys are just interested in creating unemployment and underemployment!” I don’t have answers to all these questions, but I am positive we need the disruption to enhance our quality of life and guarantee safety in mobility and specifically the agri-food value chain. Logistics will be enhanced, transaction costs reduced and corruption discouraged. Drones now deliver parcels in villages in China courtesy of even though Amazon started the idea but implementation has been delayed. Imagine what will happen if an AV can pick up coffee from Moshi (Tanzania) and transfer the product to Kilimanjaro airport for export to other parts of the world. Traceability will be better because data must be entered correctly before the AV commences the journey. Monitoring will be via satellite and global positioning system (GPS) – very easy nowadays.  Maybe there is an ethical dilemma but we need to advance and create a safety net for the people who will be affected. We should also try to prepare people who might lose their jobs on how they can retrain or acquire appropriate skills as their displacement becomes imminent.  As this sector develops, policy makers need to catch up with workable policies. For example, who should be liable when an accident is caused by an autonomous vehicle? The insurance policies required are an as yet unresolved issue.

Disruption: Niche market
The mobility market is ripe for disruption. Already there are challenges with traffic congestion and pollution in big cities – this is a global phenomenon. When I sweat and I wipe my face with my handkerchief, it’s brown in small cities and towns but black in big cities. To reduce the impact of our lifestyle on climate change, people are already carpooling and using public transit. Based on the recent trend, I think AV will take carpooling and sharing to a more ideal level in terms of ecological footprint. Locally in our alternative food market, friends order online from an organic coop and delivery is to one of the members for distribution or pickup at a selected place. People order for organic food and veggies for delivery on platforms such as my fresh city farms (veggies, organic salad and smoothies and other locally grown produce) and goodfood2u. Efficiency may be enhanced if these organizations have access to AV, they rely on volunteers to reduce cost and not all volunteers are altruistic. The resuscitation of the silk road, also known as the one belt one road (OBOR), coupled with AV will transform the way we order, move and consume agricultural products globally.

Trucking business with AV
Locally, ordering online is growing in the ethnocultural food and alternative agriculture market. The use of AV will strengthen these markets. Furthermore, the use of mobile abattoirs will make slaughtering more appropriate and consistent with the tenets of halal. With mobile abattoirs, animals don’t need to travel and face the associated stress and all activities will be done on the farm. Monitoring is easier. Autonomous (driverless) mobile abattoirs will create an environment where lovers of halal (or kosher) will access their authentic preferred meat. With cross border trade, trade facilitation will be enhanced. This is expected because trade facilitation concepts such as single window, one stop border posts, publication of information about customs, automation, and harmonization of processes and procedures which remove non-tariff barriers will be easy to implement with driverless trucks because all the necessary data are inputted and transmitted before the trucks leave the exporting country.

With the introduction of AV community plots owners can share MOIA to their community garden. Waymo can be involved with the delivery of fresh and locally produced fruits and vegetables and Uber and Starsky can scale up and improve their services across borders starting with US, Canada and Mexico.

To conclude, it is important to mention the impact of long distance driving on the health and social life of the drivers. I have interacted with people who asserted that driving a truck leads to health complications later in life often coupled with breakdown of relationships with friends and family members. If this turns out to be true, driverless trucks will enable drivers to spend more time on activities that will increase their life expectancy and strengthen their social interaction.

Bamidele Adekunle, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

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