Supermarketization’ of Food Supply and Retail: Private Sector Interests and Household Food Security
Drawing on the evidence from an eleven-city survey of food insecurity in Southern Africa conducted by the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN), this chapter reviews the current state of knowledge on the expansion of supermarket supply chains, their impact on informal food suppliers and their role in food provision for the urban poor. The chapter finds that supermarkets play an important role in urban food provisioning in Southern Africa, even amongst poor households. Over the last two decades, a handful of large and highly competitive South African-based supermarkets have penetrated, and in some cases dominate, the food retail sector of Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. At the same time, the relationship between supermarket expansion and the informal urban food economy is extremely dynamic. Informal food traders, source many of their processed and fresh food products from supermarkets and other formal sector retailers and wholesalers. In turn, these traders sell that food to poor urban households, often in smaller quantities. Even though supermarkets are more visible and may offer cheaper food, poor households frequently rely on the informal food economy because of geographical access and other constraints including income, transportation costs and the inconsistent provision of electricity.