Africa’s Cities Can Feed Themselves With Proper Planning, Leaders Say

The challenge of feeding Africa's cities can be overcome by a clever synergy between city planning and collaboration between governments and the private sector.

Experts at the Feeding the Cities: A Civic Call to Action session of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual summit described the ongoing rural-urban migration trend in Africa as a burden to cities' resources, but also remained confident that the related food shortage problems could be resolved within reason.

In Kigali, for instance, the city's administrators have set aside 23 percent of the land for agricultural purposes, a strategy that His Worship the Mayor Pudense Rubingisa says proved resourceful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We want the city to be resilient, and after the pandemic, we now see the importance of a strategic plan in terms of food security," said Hon. Rubingisa.

Still, the Mayor recognizes that the city cannot be entirely self-sufficient and that its leaders have to collaborate well with their peers from other regions that have better capacity to produce food.

"The City of Kigali is supplied by neighbouring districts, which supplement what cannot be produced locally. We are, therefore, building more feeder roads into the city so as to connect to the markets that are feeding it. We are also encouraging joint partnerships bringing together different ministries and the Rwanda Development Board to plan for the City and entire country," said Hon. Rubingisa.

A similar strategy is being implemented in Ethiopia, where the capital Addis Ababa is now re-evaluating its farming prospects in favor of increased local production.

"COVID-19 worsened the food security situation within the city and that was a turning point. The city has now started thinking about self-sufficiency especially when it comes to the production of dairy products and vegetables," said Dr. Mendefro Nigussie, who leads the Agriculture Sector Development of Ethiopia's Ministry of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, in Kenya and Nigeria, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the inadequacy of existing market infrastructure.

Hon. James Nyoro, the governor of Kiambu County, which borders Kenya's capital, Nairobi, says the fragility of the open-air markets that serve the country's cities was brought to the fore by the containment measures.

"The challenge of maintaining social distancing in open air markets left the government with no option but to shut them down. But that was also not tenable and we now must work to create modern market facilities," said Hon. Nyoro.

Nigeria's State Acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Abisola Olusanya says the modern markets will help states like Lagos tame post-harvest loss for food damaged while on transit.

"Organised markets will help organize both supply and demand, assuring sellers of buyers and consumers of good quality. They will also help in price regulation," she said.

Other panellists, William Asiko, the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation's Africa office and Geoffrey Kirenga, CEO of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania Ltd. (SAGCOT), advocated for public private partnerships in resolving the problem of hunger in Africa's cities.