RHI Seminar: Feeding African Cities: Hinterland Suitability & Urban Growth in 20th Century Sub-Saharan Africa

We happily invite you to the RHI Seminar of December. Our speaker for this month is Tanik Joshipura, of Wageningen University. He will be presenting his paper titled: 'Feeding African Cities: Hinterland Suitability & Urban Growth in 20th Century Sub-Saharan Africa''

The seminar will take place in room B0075 in the Leeuwenborch. Hope to see you there!

Organised by Economic and Environmental History

Thu 8 December 2022 15:00 to 16:15

Venue Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN Wageningen
+31 (0)317 48 36 39
Room B0075


Historically, sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) cities largely relied on their immediate hinterlands for food provisioning. However, rapid urban growth in the past century has posed unique challenges to how food is provisioned. This paper explores the relationship between the food production suitability of urban hinterlands, and their population growth over the 20th century. Using a newly constructed urban population dataset, I empirically identify that hinterland suitability was important for urban growth until the 1960s. However, since then, the suitability-growth relationship has weakened. I explore this weakening relationship to understand whether it was a regional phenomenon, and whether it was driven by newly formed cities or a change in urbanization incentives. The suitability-growth relationship weakens even after controlling for various employment, income and mortality related drivers of 20th century urban growth in SSA. My results indicate that the means of urban food provisioning in SSA changed. Since the 1960s, hinterland food provisioning in cities was increasingly replaced by an increased reliance on intercontinental food imports. Low global food prices, reduced shipping costs, rural unemployment, and a shift from pro-rural to pro-urban policies incentivized cities to rely onintercontinental food imports and grow past their historical constraints.