Hungry Cities Partnership

Document Type

Hungry Cities Report

Publication Date



Balsillie School of International Affairs


Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest city and plays a critical role in the national economy. Despite its apparent wealth, Cape Town is very unequal in terms of food security with many areas experiencing high levels of food insecurity. The city’s urban food insecurity challenge is multi-dimensional with determining factors including the size of the city, its urbanization pattern, the legacy of apartheid, and economic marginalization. South Africa’s apartheid legacy is a food system with high levels of concentration in all aspects of the food value chain. For example, there are 5-6,000 wheat farmers but the four main millers control 87% of the market and are integrated with plant bakers. The food system in South Africa has undergone rapid transformation in the last two decades with the expansion and growing control of supermarket chains. Engaging in similar activities as the formal food sector is an active and vibrant informal system. The only difference is effectively one of visibility, in terms of policy and law. The informal sector remains largely illegal, despite the fact that it and the formal sector in Cape Town are directly connected and often reliant on one another. Food trade is a significant component of Cape Town’s informal economy, which plays a major role in making food accessible to low-income households and has a distinctive micro-geography to maximize accessibility.