Informal Food Retail and Food Security in Africa: Myths and Facts
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For over 10 years, the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town has focused on urban food security. This research has consistently shown the importance of the informal economy in the urban food system, and particularly in the food security of poorer households. Three key research projects inform this brief, the earlier work carried out by the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN), and recent findings from the Consuming Urban Poverty (CUP) project and the Hungry Cities Partnership (HCP). This brief summarises findings relevant to informal economy advocates and researchers, in the hope of bolstering their work with additional evidence. During the CUP project over 2,200 households and 1,200 food retailers were interviewed (between April 2016 and February 2017) in three secondary cities: Kisumu, Kenya; Kitwe, Zambia; and Epworth, outside Harare, Zimbabwe. In addition, nearly 4,500 traders were mapped as part of a retailer census in these cities. This extends and builds the evidence base generated through the over 6,400 household food security surveys conducted in low-income neighbourhoods of 11 Southern African cities by AFSUN in 2008/2009. AFSUN’s research was done in Blantyre, Malawi; Cape Town, Johannesburg and Msunduzi in South Africa; Gaborone, Botswana; Harare, Zimbabwe; Lusaka, Zambia; Manzini, Swaziland; Maputo, Mozambique; Maseru, Lesotho; and Windhoek, Namibia. This brief draws the findings from these interviews and surveys as well as other research, including that done by the HCP on informal food retail in Cape Town Kingston (Jamaica), Maputo, Mexico City, Nairobi (Kenya) and Nanjing (China). Despite rapid supermarket penetration, informal food retail remains prevalent across the continent. It is a key source of employment, particularly for women. This brief highlights myths about the role of informal operators and challenges they face in production, distribution and consumption of food, and the governance of informal trade. It counterposes these myths with research evidence generated by the ACC and its associates. These are notions/statements that we have encountered – some implicit but many explicit – in our research, policy and advocacy work.
CitationSkinner, C. and Haysom, G. (2018) Informal Food Retail and Food Security in Africa: Myths and Facts, Consuming Urban Poverty Policy Brief 1, August 2018, Cape Town: African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
Rights holderAfrican Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
- Urban/Rural