Traditional markets and small-format shops currently account for 80 to 90 per cent of urban food retailing in African cities, a report has shown.
The 2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR) was launched on Tuesday at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The report said small farmers reach urban food markets primarily via traditional wholesale markets. "The efficient operation of these markets, therefore, becomes key to small farmer access and competitiveness," reads the report.
It envisions that supermarket shares, though currently small, seem likely to increase in the coming decades.
While recognising the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in exacerbating existing economic and social inequalities, the report defines five focus areas in a bid to overcome the problem of urban under-nutrition and accelerate the urgency of urban food system planning.
These focus areas include improved urban food system governance; efficient urban wholesale markets; food safety regulation and enforcement; regional free trade and agricultural policy harmonisation, and agricultural research focused on high-growth, high-value food commodities.
Domestic food distribution systems, intra-African trade and food safety are the other themes of the report leading to the conclusion that improved urban food system governance and performance can create new opportunities for Africa to transform its agricultural endeavors into thriving businesses.
This year's AASR focuses on Feeding Africa's Cities by assessing the opportunities, challenges and policies required to enable African farmers and agribusinesses to serve the rapidly growing urban food markets.
The report seeks to find ways for smallholder farmers to drive food security, rural prosperity, and inclusive economic growth.
"This report highlights the opportunity for all agriculture industry stakeholders to bring together viewpoints that define the transformation agenda, while outlining the practical next steps to an agricultural revolution," said Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The report began by outlining the opportunities provided by Africa's urban food markets to the continent's 60 million farms.
It indicates that cities shape Africa's agribusiness environment by affecting patterns of agricultural production and inducing the rapid expansion of food processing and distribution plans.
"This year's AASR shows that as the center of gravity in Africa's agri-food systems shifts increasingly towards urban areas, a cohort of new, non-traditional actors including city planners, mayors, district councils, trader organizations and public health professionals - are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy," said Andrew Cox, AGRA's Chief of Staff and Strategy.
Subsequent chapters touch on the opportunities in Africa's growing urban food markets while recognising that the effective governance of urban food systems requires inclusive models that coordinate and harmonize the actions of the many diverse players now shaping African agri-food systems.
This is the first time in history that the AGRF is held virtually, in line with COVID-19 containment measures.
The theme of the Forum is Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa, a call to action to rethink Africa's food systems in the delivery of resilient, better nourished, and more prosperous outcomes for all.