Resituating Africa’s Urban Informal Food Sector

Urban Forum

Jonathan Crush and Graeme Young

The complex dynamics of the informal food sector in urban Africa are poorly understood. Urban informal food systems are beginning to receive attention from scholars and policymakers, but the notable absence of detailed empirical information and necessary theoretical engagement with their emergence, structure, and operation has thus far limited efforts to understand the central role that they play in urban development processes. This Special Issue brings together a diverse collection of case studies from seven countries across the Global South—China, Jamaica, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda—to explore these dynamics by placing Africa’s urban informal food sector in comparative international context. This introduction provides an overview of how this Special Issue contributes to debates about the origins of informal food economies in cities in the Global South, the potential of the informal food sector to contribute to inclusive urban development, the relationship between informal food vendors and the state, and interactions between formal and informal food systems, all of which have important implications for theorizing urban governance and development in Africa and beyond.

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