Modernizing Africa’s Fresh Produce Supply Chains without Rapid Supermarket Takeover: Towards a Definition of Research and Investment Priorities
June 1, 2010 - Author: David Tschirley, Miltone Ayieko, Munguzwe Hichaambwa, Joey Goeb, and Wayne Loescher
IDWP 106. David Tschirley, Miltone Ayieko, Munguzwe Hichaambwa, Joey Goeb, and Wayne Loescher. 2010. Modernizing Africa’s Fresh Produce Supply Chains without Rapid Supermarket Takeover: Towards a Definition of Research and Investment Priorities
After a burst of enthusiasm through the middle part of this decade regarding the supermarket
revolution, there now exists a broad consensus that this phenomenon is likely to proceed
much more slowly than once thought in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is especially true in fresh
produce supply chains, where both the promise and the perils of supermarket expansion have
received greatest attention.
In nearly the entire continent, the so-called traditional marketing sector – open air markets,
dispersed informal vendors, and traditional shops – is expected to play a dominant role in
fresh produce marketing for several decades. If true, this finding has profound policy
implications. Specifically, it suggests that private investment in modern, integrated supply
chains cannot be relied upon to solve the multitude of problems that increasingly plague these
traditional production and marketing systems over a time frame acceptable to most policy
makers and donors. Public engagement, preferably through meaningful public-private
partnerships and an accompanying re-definition of public and private roles, will be central to
improving these systems.
This paper first reviews the evolution of thinking on the supermarket revolution in Africa and
presents empirical evidence from Kenya and Zambia. It then lays out a set of stylized facts
and key gaps in knowledge regarding traditional fresh produce production and marketing
sectors on the continent, and closes by outlining priorities for research and for public and
private investment to modernize these systems in the absence of rapid supermarket takeover.