Persistence of open-air markets in the food systems of Africa's secondary cities

Corrie Hannah, Julia Davies, Rachel Green, Andrew Zimmer, Patrese Anderson, Jane Battersby, Kathy Baylis, Nupur Joshi, Tom P. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In a rapidly urbanizing sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), changing urban food systems are expected to affect the ways in which households access food. While significant research and policy efforts address food production to support food security in the context of city-region food systems, the complex nature of urban food systems has received less attention, particularly in secondary cities across the globe. Using household survey data collected in 2019 across 4 cities in Kenya and 14 cities in Zambia, we examined patterns of household food acquisition from key food retail locations. Households predominantly purchased food from open-air markets and vendors, and only a subset of households bought food from supermarkets. Variations in urban population size, area, and connectivity across the 18 cities presented a clustering of four city types that shape household food access and purchasing patterns at food retail locations. Despite a growing narrative that supermarkets and western diets will dominate SSA's urban food systems, our findings suggest that low- to middle-income households will continue to purchase food at open-air markets in SSA's secondary cities in the coming years. Attention to these urban household purchasing patterns can inform urban planning and governance priorities to ensure that SSA's food systems can meet urban food security needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103608
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Africa
  • Food security
  • Food systems
  • Secondary cities
  • Urban planning
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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