Among the 36 jurors for the DM2008 grant competition was Thomas Pomeroy, a former USDA bilateral trade director in key regions of the world who now consults in Sub-Saharan Africa. We did this mini-interview with Pomeroy:
Q. As part of Team 10, you looked at 12 agribusiness proposals. What was your major criterion in scoring them?
A. The first question was, will the project work, or does it have a reasonable possibility of working. The key thing is to sell the product for a reasonable price.
Q. How did your candidates do?
A. I think we had some very good projects to look at. When I first read through them I thought only four were excellent. But after talking with participants and resolving issues, I rated more that high.
Q. Was it tough to make the final choices?
There were some pretty clear winners, from my point of view, and there was a meeting of minds on what should be the final choices.
Q. Did you find entrepreneurial energy and ingenuity reflected in the proposals?
A. The ones II recommended had a very good notion of constraints. They knew what others were doing in the system. There were some who I thought were just copying what they thought they could sell to the World Bank.
Q. You're consulting in Africa -- in Mali, Ghana, Senegal. Agriculture used to be largely state controlled on the continent. Is agribusiness making any progress there today?
A. I'm impressed by the smartness and energy of entrepreneurs in Africa. They are held back not by lack of financing, not by ignorance, but often by the cost of doing business, as well as the cost of energy. But governments are improving. Generally letting the private sector develop is pretty well accepted across Africa. There are some very positive things happening.