Food Not Facebook
As the graph above shows, food prices globally have increased at a pace that is even greater than the surge in oil prices over the last twelve months. We will skip the blame game except to note that food shortages and the associated rising costs were at the heart of what triggered the social unrest in North Africa. Recall that the Tunisian self-immolation by Mohamed Bouazizi was a protest against authorities that had confiscated his produce cart because he did not possess a license.
While some countries in North Africa responded to their citizen uprising by taking the internet offline and shutting down media outlets, we are not in the camp to solely attribute the unrest to social networking campaigns. Although we do not discount their usefulness either in commandeering voices behind a cause, the numbers do not support the claims in our opinion.
Two facts are often overlooked by pundits attributing North African social unrest to a social media campaign. First, according to the CIA World Fact Book, less than 10% of the combined populations of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia have internet access. Second, the literacy rate across these four countries averages approximately 68% of the adult population. Collectively, these penetration rates across the populations mentioned do not translate into the levels of protest seen in the streets of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Something more was at work. Both weather and the proceeding global financial crisis left these nations with a shortage of fundamental public resources. Unstable and sky-rocketing food prices were, in our opinion, the spark to a powder-keg situation already brewing in the region.
Key Items Impacting Food Supplies:
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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