Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
July 22nd, 2009
Live Chat with Aaron Brown, Eleni Gabre Madhin and the Filmmakers


Eleni Gabre-Madhin and Aaron BrownAfter the premiere of The Market Maker, WIDE ANGLE is pleased to invite you to join a live conversation about the film!

The Market Maker follows Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a charismatic Ethiopian economist who, in an effort to end hunger in her famine-plagued country, designs the country’s first commodities exchange. WIDE ANGLE host Aaron Brown travels to Ethiopia with Gabre-Madhin and speaks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to explore the macro-economic implications of the Exchange.

You can participate in a live discussion with Eleni Gabre-Madhin, Aaron Brown, and the filmmakers, Eli Cane and Hugo Berkeley on Thursday July 23rd at 11 a.m. EST. The number you can call to participate live is (718) 506-1351.

Each of these people has traveled through the dusty chaotic markets of Ethiopia, following Gabre-Madhin’s path. Now, they want to hear your experiences, your travels and your views on the film and the challenges of development for a country such as Ethiopia.

To send us your questions in advance, leave a comment below, or send us your question on Twitter using #MarketMaker.

We look forward to hearing from you!

  • Tedla Asfaw

    I heard alarming news which has been familar for many of us another starvation looming in Ethiopia. My country Ethiopia is not self sufficent in food production and the idea of commodity exchange seems to me an idea which is out of touch.

    What commodity exchange is Eleni talking about and it seems to me estabilishing a petroleum ministry where there is no oil.

    The other variable which is not included in her experiment is the tons of donated food from the West which most of the time end up for sale in a market.

    If Eleni would like to address the coming drought that is reported by UN today and the huge quantity of donated food impact on the so called “commodity exchange” I will appreciate it.

  • EthioSun

    Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a tribal elite, who is currently a CEO and the co-owner of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, will be interviewed by Aaron Brown in a PBS documentary on July 22nd 10pm EST.

    eleni-at-market_cover copy

    Gabre-Madhin is a Tigrean by tribe and a close friend and supporter of the war criminals and part of the corruption related crimes in Ethiopia. Eleni Gabre Madhin and her foreign currency strapped bosses currently control the export of coffee which contributes for about 30-40% of the country’s export earnings.

    As before Eleni Gabre-Madhin is expected to misinform the American public about democracy and the economic progress in Ethiopia despite the overgrowing corruption, nepotism, widespread poverty, social, political and health problems.

    Ethiopian living in DC metro are anticipated to denounce Eleni Gabre-Madhin , a member of the tribal rulers of Ethiopia, at the Film screening on Friday, July 24th at the Four Points by Sheraton in Washington DC (12th & K).

  • yilma

    Dear Mr. Aaron Brown,

    We heard that you were going to present a program on the newly established Commodity Exchange in Ethiopia. We are very happy our homeland is in the spotlight. On the other hand have you or your associates investigated the total picture that is Ethiopia to be able to focus on this little aspect on the periphery of the big canvas.

    We do not believe so. We do not think it is fair to the eighty million Ethiopians to tell a story based on an institution that is created by foreign donors in complete disregard of the consequences of their actions.

    Following is the Ethiopian reality today as you are showing the documentary:

    1. Ethiopia is a one Party state with a carefully constructed façade of multi-parties to fool outsiders.
    2. All land is the property of the government.
    3. The government controls all media.
    4. All organizations are registered, regulated and controlled by the government.
    5. The biggest and richest corporation (EFFORT) is owned by the government.

    The Commodity Exchange you are highlighting is a creation of the government. The few private enterprises existing in the country have nothing to do with a creation of another layer of control. The government is one of the ‘Traders’ in the exchange whereby creating unequal relationship to start with. Can you imagine competing with Uncle Sam?

    Let us take coffee. It is the main export of the country. It has been a private driven enterprise that has shown resiliency even during the dark days of the military regime. Guess what the new Commodity Exchange is doing to coffee traders. Due to their reluctance in joining this Trojan horse their property was confiscated, their license revoked and some are still in jail awaiting trial for hording.

    We believe the filmmaker is looking at the forest instead of looking at the individual trees that make the forest. I believe it is a disservice to cozy up with dictators like Prime Minister Zenawi of Ethiopia and paint such a rosy picture to blur reality.

    Commodity Exchange does not exist in isolation of other aspects of the country. Without good governance and in the absence of basic human rights there cannot be institutions that can honestly serve the people. That is true in China that is true in North Korea and that is true in Ethiopia.

    We are saddened that your highly regarded program is being used to peddle such a false and misleading story regarding my country of origin. I am sure if you or your staff have looked closely by what is peddled by the film maker you would have noticed that the true story of the Commodity Exchange of Ethiopia is not what it is purported to be.

    We do hope you will invite Ethiopian opposition figures to give balance to the misleading story being told.

  • Deborah Garvin Hinely

    Hi Eleni!
    I knew you would do something great with your life! Go RVA BUFFS, Class of ‘82!

  • David Shiferaw

    It is great to see Eleni taking the risks to implement her vision. I don’t know much about the experiences of other developing countries which have implemented Commodity Exchanges – but its great that PBS focused on Eleni’s efforts to translate a vision that aims to positively affect millions into practice.

    Great job PBS! Great job Eleni and her team at the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange!

  • Harry Kloman

    I very much enjoyed your documentary about farming and marketing in Ethiopia, just aired this evening.

    I suspect someone has already pointed out to you a small error. The film shows a map of Ethiopia with the names of a few Ethiopian cities in Amharic. Those Amharic names turn into the cities’ names in English. But where you have the city Dire Dawa in Amharic, the Amharic words do NOT say Dire Dawa: They say Addis Ababa. Have an Ethiopian look at it and I’m certain s/he’ll confirm this.

    Harry Kloman
    University of Pittsburgh

  • SJ Kenya

    Hi Eleni
    I was only able to watch and record on my DVR 38 minutes of the film. I am so excited by what you doing. As you probably guessed I am from Kenya, your neighbuor down south. There are a few similarity of what you doing with what goes in here- (1) Have you ever heard of the National Cereals Board? (2)0What do you think of Coffee and Tea in Kenya being sold through auctions? Have these processes directly assisted the grower the farmer? What lessons can you draw from Kenya? Corruption and government interference is our number one challenge actually it’s a are you going to handle it? I really want you to succeed. Your team is awesome.

  • CanBG

    I was spellbound by this evening’s documentary, sitting alone and almost cheering aloud when the first sale of sesame occurred. I have read the previous comments and am concerned about the substance of the most grave, given the questionable and debatable benefits wrought upon other nations by the World Bank. It is difficult for one in my distant position in so many ways to weigh the differing ‘facts’ as presented – how are we to contextualize the overall activity of the exchange against the backdrop of single party states? How does a hooking of the wagon to the vagaries of the world’s commodity markets, when the google page I used to get here is enticing me with the unearned profit I can make gambling on it, assist the subsistence farmers in this land.

  • bayew


    I have just watched the episode aired on PBS concerning ECX start up and presenting this new concept to Ethiopia. It is obvious it will be challenging for many Ethiopian farmers and Ethiopians to comprehend this new idea and many new ideas yet to come, overtime you can sale this by demonstrating to them that this is the way forward to success.

    I have no doubt in the success of ECX. As a forward thinker Ethiopian, I appreciate your vision and work you have dedicated for Ethiopia.

    Let me know how I could help, moving forward?

    Thank You,
    Field Support Engineer
    Rockwell Automation

  • Edward

    Dear Dr. Eleni,

    Thank you for your hard work for your country. Thank you PBS for covering such a hardworking African diaspora. Most Diaspora are not selfless like Dr. Eleni. I appreciate the opportunity to ask a question to Dr. Eleni.

    I am from Kenya and i know the struggles of initiating new institutions in a poor country. In Kenya, millions are starving today like in Ethiopia, as our population also skyrockets.
    My Main Question is from my experience in establishing what some Kenyans used to call “foreign” institutions to Africans like yours (ECX), what has been the structural, social, political and legal challenges for ECX in Ethiopia? As you know, we Africans spend too much on attacking and with politics as well as deeply lack the infrastructure and tolerance to absorbs the “shocks” of new regulations, so i expect you to face such challenges and failures before you get back up. Please less us know your early experiences with the challenges.
    Thank You and God bless You

  • Aman

    Great job, Eleni. I cannot say how much I admire your efforts. The potential positive consequence of this exchange on the country is quite massive. May the wind stay at your back.

    -independent commodities trader.

  • Aster Shewangizaw

    Hi Eleni,

    I am glad that we have Ethiopians like you who are making a difference. No doubt, you will be successful at your endeavor. Your passion, energy and love of country is very much appreciated.

    There are many looser ‘Ethiopians’ in the Diaspora who are filled with hate and want to see Ethiopia fail to make their point. Their hate toward Woyane is more than their love of country, if they have any patriotism to speak of.

    People are accusing you of Woyane simply based on your name. Little these people know that you are a Stanford educated Economist who could work anywhere in the world and instead you chose to give back to your country. For these losers anyone working in Ethiopia is a Woyane, they would like to suspend the trade, the education, the health care until their tribe comes back to power.
    You should be commended for what you are doing and the rest of your team who are making a difference. Don’t be disappointed of by some of the comments from these scumbugs. You are a hero to me and many Ethiopians.

    Best of luck in all your work

  • Bedria Hassen

    This was a very interesting documentary. I applaud the efforts of Elleni and her team in spearheading such a daunting task. I think it is obvious that the whole story cannot be told, compressed in one hour. But what I take from the story is despite the risk of failure, the challenge of changing old ways, working with minimum infrastructure, and most of all the pressure of being under political scrutiny from all sides, they managed to start something new and innovative. I sincerely hope it brings about change to the people that need it most. I wish them all the best.

  • Zemedkun

    How can you be fooled by hyena wearing a ship mask? From what I read, this is exactly what the film makers try to explain to the outside world. However, we Ethiopians know who the hyena is and will do our best to eliminate this. We will then create true, uncorrupted commodity exchange. We will then eliminate famine. Until then you can continue to full the fullish.

  • Gideon B.

    Eleni – Don’t be discouraged by the people caught up in the factions. You’ve got a big picture view and I appreciate what you and your colleagues are doing.

  • JK

    For a change, it is nice to see that our countrymen/women and our country is being highlighted in a positive way in the stages of global finance and economics. This is an incredible story from incredible people and this is fact is simply understood by the immense challenges that Dr Eleni and her team have faced and seem to have overcome. A pretty amazing feat…
    It is, although, disturbing to read comments from fellow countrymen who are trying to turn this victory into some sort of political gimmick by the current government et al, as well as challenging the scope and goal of the exchange. There are also some comments accusing Dr Eleni of ‘working’ for the government. It would be interesting for those responsible for such comments to present supporting evidence with their accusations. I am certain that will never happen. What will happen with certainty is that such exchange will be successful in alleviating the food shortage of Ethiopia by balancing production yields in the different regions of the country. What will happen with certainty is that the playing field for traders in Ethiopia will be flattened and the only factor driving/influencing commodity prices in Ethiopia will be the free market economy, like it’s supposed to do. At least, we hope that it does…
    Applauding and wishing Dr. Eleni and her team good luck…

  • David

    I applaud you for your great work. The people who are against your endeavor are haters who have nothing positive to contribute to Ethiopia’s well being. Ignore them.

  • Bemnet Asayehegn

    Hello Eleni:
    you are doing a great service to your country despite the monumental challenges in logistics, technology , and fear of change for the local traders. Well, as you move forward accomplishing your dreams, I hope yoo will inspire more people and become a bridge to transfer knowledge from the intellectuals in the diaspora, and also, tap into local wisdom.

    God Bless you and your team!

  • Sam

    To some degree, I can understand the criticisms, but I think the critics here need to take a step back. Part of the economic problem in Africa is that we have been farming and trading our farm products the same way for hundreds of years. Eleni seems to have found a way to bring about change to Ethiopian farming. Please give this a chance to work and show your support.

    Africa needs this. By bringing efficiency to the commodities market, Ethiopian farmers will reap the rewards.

  • Fisseha, Dereje

    Hi Elene, I missed the show yesterday but I will find a way to watch is ASAP. How are you going to deal with the gigantic government owned businesses like “Gunna” interfering with trading agricultural products directly, including imports and exports?

    Best wishes,


  • C Hall

    I was riveted by this program and the focus on hope in one person trying to make a difference. I cannot listen in this morning, but my question is what are Dr. Eleni’s thoughts on the future possibility of foreign or local conglomerates coming in to absorb / oversee the many smaller farms much the way Tyson chicken, for example, has done with livestock farms here in the US. Is there a way to avoid this progression? Would this be good for the small farmers?

  • sosina

    What an inspiration you and your team are! wish you all the luck in the world.

  • Fisseha, Dereje

    Hi Elene, I missed the show yesterday but I will find a way to watch it ASAP. How are you going to deal with the gigantic government owned businesses like “Gunna” interfering with trading agricultural products directly, including imports and exports?

    Best wishes,


  • David Balaam

    I watched the program with great interest because in the prelude Eleni said she realized that hunger was a product of poverty. During the program it was not made clear how a single commodity exchange would help overcome this problem. Aaron Brown asked it directly! Eleni seems to view the hunger problem as one of lack of production (which she noted at the beginning was not the issue) and yet does not deal directly with distribution and a variety of other political and social issues that limit both production and distribution. A broader examination of the problem in Ethiopia and other nations with masive hunger problems is needed.
    I applaud the effort anyway,
    Sincerely, David N. Balaam

  • Mena Mahderu

    I am sure Eleni and Aaron Brown are well-meaning individuals. We in the United States remember Aaron Brown as a critical and fairminded journalist. In this instance, however, he has become an unwitting instrument of a brutal dictatorship that owns all the land in the country and most of the business sector through such parastatal establishments as EFFORT. ECX is another gimick created to bring the entire economy under the regime’s control. Ethiopians are starving due to the absence of good governance and free market. How can the creation of a government controlled exchange system stave off starvation?

  • Tesfaye Desta

    I am glad I found this documentary while surfing the channels last night. I saw Dr. Eleni’s presentation on TED a year ago and was wondering about her success. I am glad to see that the Meles government is fully behind her. As the government’s support is a blessing it is a curse too. As it was evident in the documentary the farmers and traders were skeptical to join the exchange. I believe the reason is none other than the mistrust we Ethiopians have when it comes to our governments. I believe it was a mistake to have abruptly shut the coffee auctions and burden the exchange with coffee in a days notice. If the team at ECX projects a long lasting relationship with the farmers and traders, they will have to be able to navigate away from the government’s influence. I hate to see such a courageous effort by Dr. Eleni and her team to be hijacked by the government. Let the exchange compete with the old market system. As farmers recognize its benefits they will slowly start participating in the exchange. What Mr. Meles is doing is a disservice to the exchanges over all health. Dr. Eleni needs to evaluate the long term and short term benefits before jumping in excitement and accepting all that Mr. Meles throws at her. I recall from the documentary a trader in Merkato telling Dr. Eleni that things are not the same as she told them and she kept on going and ignoring him. I hope ECX works hard to win the trust of the people rather that the temporary support power from the government. As they shut the half century old coffee auctions in a day notice they can turn on ECX too when they feel like they do not need it any more. We all know that the government is quick on creating clones of organization they do not like intend to replace.
    Dr. Eleni, I wish you the best of luck and congratulate you in introducing a new era in trading to Ethiopia. As much as I beg you not to pay any attention to your critics who like to denounce your effort even before understanding what you do, I would also beg you be independent of the regime and work even harder to win the trust of the people. My be hire some of the old traders from the old auctions as your foot soldiers.
    Good luck.
    Thank you

  • M.Knight

    Using cell phones, satellite photometry, and the internet, you also need a central data bank of areas with crop surpluses and areas of food shortages, telling the traders where to buy and where to sell. Improved road networks and available credit are necessary, also. Good luck!

  • Tedla asfaw

    My previous comments before I watch the one hour show followed by thirty minutes talk radio today are still valid. I stand by what I said and in fact I have strong words for Dr. Eleni.

    Forcing traders to fill her of course the invisible hand of TPLF/ storage is nothing to be proud of. Why this is considered as a ground break in “commodity exchange” in Ethiopia.

    Coffee auction has been going on for many decades in Ethiopia under different administrations and all the rulers used coffee to fill their coffers. No wonder we had a “National Coffee Song” in Ethiopia, “Buna Buna”.

    Doing the same thing electronically on a trade floor for one year has not produced any benefit to the coffee farmers. The documentary has not gone far to tell us how this modern trading helped the farmers.

    Dr. Eleni on Radio today she pointed that this time it is a brake even and profit is going to come for the “traders”. Why do we care for traders ?

    What is happening for Coffee is duplicated for sesame another commodity to bring in foreign exchange for TPLF monopolized business of EFFORT.

    The documentary billed as innovation to help farmers produce and market was not the substance of this documentary. The subsistance agriculture of Ethiopia will be out of this trading for a very long time because their is no surplus to go through all this government controlled storage facilities that ended to profit others. The government is not interested either because leasing land to foreigners is the alternative.

    My worry is this, large fertile lands leased for foreign countries to produce crops by paying cash for the government in front. This recent phenomenon that covered wide international media never even discussed on this documentary. This will take our farmers out of farming and many of them end as laborers.

    To my question of recurrent drought’s impact on this so called “coffee and sesame exchange” rather than commodity exchange, Dr. Eleni has no answer when the question was aired at the end of the program.

    I have waited patiently to talk to Dr. Eleni this morning on the radio and due to limited time and maybe other reason I haven’t got a chance.

    The modernization of Saudi oil exploration which I saw on one of the PBS programs is close to this wide angle documentary and if we praise Eleni and Meles Zenawi for “commodity exchange” and it is appropriate also to give similar praise to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.

  • tafesech

    I just didn’t see the connection between helping the small farmer of Ethiopia and commodity exchange. That is how the documentary started and that was supposed to be the intention of the film. I was open minded to it. And Aaron Brown asked a question to the effect how commodity exchange is going to help the millions of Ethiopian farmers get out of poverty? And to my mind Eleni’s response just didn’t ring true. She said something about she and many people do not produce their own food, if they have money they can buy it. In other words This small farmers through this exchange are going to have better profit. But then that is not what we saw happening. The Ethiopian government orders her to do commodity exchange on coffee and sesame which is most probably owned by the government or the relatives of high ranking officials.
    Meles Zenawi makes an appearance and is portrayed as a leader who cares about the growth of the country and poor Ethiopian farmers. This is very hard for many of us Ethiopians to swallow because we know it is exactly the opposite as many of the comments made by Ethiopians on this website show. Meles is a dictator who only cares about holding and keeping power as long as he could by any means necessary. In fact he would like to divide up the country in to ethnic groups, transfer all of the country’s important resources into Tigray his native land drive the rest of the country into further poverty and misery if that is at all possible. Right now him and his cronies have leased many of our beloved countries very fertile land to foreigners to grow cash crops such as roses to be sold in European markets while our people are on the brink of starvation. Growing roses is known to be one of the most environmentally devastating undertakings. Countries like Kenya who were engaged in this enterprise decades before Ethiopia have shied away from it because of its impact on the soil and environment is just not worth the profit. Besides it is not as if the profits gotten from this roses benefits the Ethiopian people. Anything that is lucrative is owned by Meles and his cronies who are mostly if not all Tigrians. I would like to ask Aaron Brown to investigate some of the atrocities that many of us pointed out about the Meles regime (or if that is too political then on farming again) and do another documentary that is well researched, balanced and honest. That is what we expect from such reputable television program as Wide Angle.

  • abdullahi hassen

    I hope this works and help the poor farmers

  • yonas

    There is no private ownership in Ethiopia,even the house my father build from the scratch is owned by
    the Goverment.

  • Charlie Cooper

    Obviously, there are great divisions among Ethiopians and controversy about the government. I have to agree with those who said that the show depicted Eleni as dedicated to eliminating poverty and helping the small farmer. But I also have to agree with those who say that the show did not provide information on how the ECX helps small farmers.

    I really think PBS and Wide Angle need to address the valid questions raised here. I would love to be able to recommend the ECS as an example of economic progress for the subsistence farmer, but I can’t do that as thing stand.-

  • Sol

    This commodity exchange experiment is just another round of TPLF’s regime to put every thing under the control of Tigres. Why should the government interfere with how the people do buy and sell their products. I am sure at these brutal creatures would attempt even to control where every Ethiopian should buy what to eat.

    Nothing positive would come from this government for the majority of Ethiopians except for Tigres.

  • Petross

    what is the need for a commodity exchange? while the country’s political ground is very messy. I think the real dilemma could not be resolved until the political arena is fixed.

  • Claudette

    Bravo! Eleni you are truly on the cutting edge. It is long overdue for Africa to have its own Commodity Exchange. Now, if you can collaborate with Liberia, Nigeria, Congo, Coates D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana this will truly become more than just stability in the continent for “Commoidty Stability Futures Trade” but an unlikely emerging market to trade with the rest of the world. I am on board with your efforts as I work on my own project for Liberia. It is not easy working on your with limited resources but, I believe in you. Stick with it and my god speed you in your efforts. I am refreshed by your global effots and feel prividged to have witnessed your great deeds for your country.
    I regret not being able to speak with you online as I just saw the film this morning. Please com back and chat with us all again.

    Claudette de la Haye
    Oak Park, MI USA

  • Mekonnen Teshome (journalist)

    Dr.Eleni Gabre-Madhin ,the nicest guest you have ever had.

  • Daniel Y

    There are a lot of people making unsubstantiated accusations that are so disingenuous especially in claiming ones dream from an early age is somehow related to some ethnic conspiracy. This $h*t has got to stop and we as people better learn to give credit when credit is due.

    To put something of this magnitude requires an immense level of dedication and years of research. It is mind boggling to hear folks criticize Dr. Eleni based on something she was born into rather than on substance. Don’t get me wrong, criticism is a health thing so long as it advances a common purpose but some here in the post are making a non-arguments that is totally shameful and bigoted.

    When are we going to stop a culture of mistrust when we don’t educate ourselves the process involved in making something like this happen. I bet you those that are mouthing nonsense are the least interested in being educated but are of a mindset that has been a cult for advancement for many centuries.

    Please understand the fundamentals, the process, do your research, seek knowledge, and you will find out that this is a revolutionary change that will have a huge impact not only in trade but also in our financial institutions, communication, transportation and information technology industries.

    Dr. Eleni – if you read this, you must know what you are doing is not only a huge contribution to farmers and consumers of commodity in Ethiopia and the world but also as a woman you are a true role model to our daughters.

    Some sure are intimidated by your success and will try to undermine your accomplishment but don’t let them get to you. Continue with your vision and expanding ECX’s operation to reach out as many farmers into the 21st century. I command you and the many dedicated staff who are pouring their heart to make ECX a success.

    Best for a continued success!

    “Race hate isn’t human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.” – Orson Welles

  • Linda Woods

    Congradulations Eleni! I just watched the documentary last week. I know that the class of ‘82 is are all behind you, praying for you and this vision of yours. May God grant you success so that every last farmer can sell his grain at fair prices and everyone in your great country can have access to what they need.

  • Baffled

    I do not understand why some people think it is to the advantage of the current Ethio gov when something good is highlighted in our country. From their post they sound like they would like everything bad including famine to happen in Ethio so that they can blame it on the current govt. No doubt this govt has so many defects to it that it is not even a point anyone would really argue. Yet they seen no better to me what they can point out about Eleni is she is Tigria. Boohoo, is that not one of the things we hated about this govt? that it is tribal.

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved.