Skip to main content

Food transformations in African secondary cities


This is an article collection published in Urban Transformations.

Countries across Africa are rapidly transitioning from rural to urban societies. The UN projects that 60% of people living in Africa will be in urban areas by 2050, with the urban population on the continent tripling over the next 50 years. The challenge of building inclusive and sustainable cities in the context of rapid urbanization is arguably the critical development issue of the 21st Century and creating food secure cities is key to promoting health, prosperity, equity, and ecological sustainability. The expansion of Africa’s urban population is taking place largely in secondary cities: these are broadly defined as cities with fewer than half a million people that are not national political or economic hubs. The implications of secondary urbanization have recently been described by the Cities Alliance as “a real knowledge gap”, requiring much additional research not least because its patterns of migration and settlement challenge conventional understandings of urbanism and conventional approaches to municipal governance. This collection focuses on the intersection between rapid secondary urbanization, food system transformation and food security through (a) discussion of the nature of food system transformation in secondary African urban centres and whether this process is similar to or diverges from the better-documented changes in primary cities; and (b) empirical case studies of food system transformation, food security outcomes and the nutrition transition in different national and local contexts.

The collection serves as a focal point for new and emerging work on the critical issue, made even more pressing by COVID-19, of how to build sustainable formal and informal food systems in the context of massive transformation at lower levels of the urban hierarchy.

Articles will undergo all of the journal's standard peer review and editorial processes outlined in its submission guidelines.

Edited by:

Professor Jonathan Crush, Balsillie School of International Affairs and University of the Western Cape, 67 Erb St West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 6C2. Email:

Dr Liam Riley,  Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb St West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 6C2. Email:

Published articles in this collection:

  1. South Africa’s major cities are periodically wracked by large-scale xenophobic violence directed at migrants and refugees from other countries. Informal sector businesses and their migrant owners and employees...

    Authors: Godfrey Tawodzera and Jonathan Crush
    Citation: Urban Transformations 2023 5:2
  2. This research focuses on the food, farming and health experiences of two secondary cities of Uganda (Mbale and Mbarara), comparing findings with studies of primary African cities. We draw from survey data, foc...

    Authors: Heather Mackay, Richard Tusabe and Frank Mugagga
    Citation: Urban Transformations 2022 4:16
  3. Urban populations globally are expected to increase by approximately 2.5 billion by 2050. Much of this growth is taking place in African cities, where about 40% of Africans live in urban areas with populations...

    Authors: Andrew Zimmer, Zack Guido, Julia Davies, Nupur Joshi, Allan Chilenga and Tom Evans
    Citation: Urban Transformations 2022 4:13
  4. As an indicator of a potential broader nutrition transition, the supermarketization of urban food systems in the Global South has become a growing area of research interest. While the rising dominance of super...

    Authors: Cameron McCordic, Bruce Frayne and Naomi Sunu
    Citation: Urban Transformations 2022 4:11
  5. The study of urban food security has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. This evolution has been punctuated, and catalyzed, by insights into the dynamic transformation of food systems in cities. Th...

    Authors: Bruce Frayne, Truzaar Dordi, Cameron McCordic, Naomi Sunu and Clare Williamson
    Citation: Urban Transformations 2022 4:9