Africa Agriculture Status Report 2020: Feeding Africa’s Cities; Opportunities, Challenges, and Policies for Linking African Farmers with Growing Urban Food Markets

Africa’s cities currently provide the largest and most rapidly growing agricultural markets in Africa. Out of total urban food sales of roughly US$200 to US$250 billion per year, over 80% comes from domestic African suppliers. In the coming decades, demographic projections forecast rates of African urbanization as the highest in the world. Today — and even more so tomorrow — Africa’s rapidly growing cities and food markets offer the largest and fastest growing market opportunity available to the continent’s 60 million farms. One-half of these farms involve young people, contrary to widely held perceptions. AGRA and partners core commitment to smallholder agriculture must now focus on urban food markets, to position domestic suppliers as competitive, responsive and safe; to provide the right signals and inputs to those markets; and continue growing opportunities for young people in the agriculture sector. Demand patterns, reviewed in Chapter 2 of this year’s Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), clearly identify the most rapidly growing urban food markets as processed, prepared, and perishable foods — especially dairy, poultry, meat, fish, and horticulture. Given the emphasis on higher value of these growing market segments, both African farmers — and supporting partners like AGRA — will need to diversify their portfolios out of starchy staples and into high financial and health-value products, as well as value addition activities in the food system. This recognizes both farmer aspirations and the continent’s increasing burden of unhealthy diets. In addition to the demand-side pull of urban food markets, Africa’s cities shape the structure of agricultural supply systems in increasingly powerful ways. Most obviously, cities serve as purveyors of farm inputs, equipment, and related services as well as warehousing and cold storage for agricultural outputs. In particular, Africa’s secondary cities — accounting for one-third to one-half of Africa’s urban population — have become key suppliers of farm inputs, pumps, farm equipment, warehousing, transport, and repair services. Cities also serve as key governors of land and labor prices in nearby agricultural zones. Because of their growing scale, urban land, labor, and input markets generate pronounced spatial gradients in land valuations, wage rates and agricultural input prices that, in turn, affect spatial land-use patterns and on-farm technologies used. Given high peri-urban land prices, and water availability, farming in urban and peri-urban areas typically focuses on high-value products such as poultry, dairy, small ruminant fattening operations, and horticultural production. 


Gateway Fields