Informality and the urban food system: Policy, practice and inclusive growth through a food lens

4 Feb 2016 - 15:45

The informal economy is a critical access point for food for most poor urban communities. This largely unrecognised sector also provides livelihoods:  a recent report by the City of Cape Town suggests that this sector could be the City’s fifth largest source of employment (creating more jobs than the construction industry).

Greater attention needs to be paid to the informal economy in the cities of the Global South, where its benefits to the food insecure are potentially enormous. Draconian policing and neglect are among the ways informal trade is restricted and very few city managers embrace this sector.

Located in places accessible to the urban poor, such as at taxi ranks, these informal businesses sell food and other goods in affordable quantities, have long operating hours, and offer other advantages to city residents.

Presenters at this conference will discuss their research findings about urban food insecurity and informal trade in Cape Town and other cities in the Global South – such as Kingston, Jamaica, and Nanjing, China – with alarming levels of food insecurity. Migrant traders and the role of women will also be discussed.

Speakers include Jonathan Crush and Edgar Pieterse, principal investigators in the Hungry Cities Partnership; Jane Battersby, Gareth Haysom, Mary Caesar, Godfrey Tawodzera and Vanya Gastrow.

The Hungry Cities Partnership is a research partnership led by the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town and the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada. The cities involved are Bangalore, Cape Town, Kingston, Maputo, Mexico City, Nairobi and Nanjing. The focus of this five-year research programme is a collaborative, inter-disciplinary research, training and knowledge mobilization programme on urbanization, food security, informality and inclusive growth.


Issued on behalf of Prof Jonathan Crush, Balsillie School of International Affairs and University of Cape Town, and Prof Edgar Pieterse, African Centre for Cities.

For further details, or to interview speakers, contact Bronwen Dachs,
084 8680844,