LIFE AMIDST A PANDEMIC: Urban livelihoods, food security and nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa
The future of the world’s population will undeniably continue to be urban albeit with a variety of challenges such as inequalities, climate change, unemployment, including numerous shocks such as floods and drought, conflict, and macroeconomic challenges. In 2050, 68% of the world’s population is expected to reside in urban areas, up from 56% in 2020. Drawing on a wide range of data sources, this report presents a review of urban vulnerabilities and food security perspectives amidst a global pandemic. Working from both urban vulnerabilities and food security perspectives, the report articulates the unique challenges faced by the urban poor populations residing in slums and informal settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Additionally, the report explores how the COVID-19 pandemic and associated containment measures deepened the economic vulnerability of the urban poor.
The analyses reveal that in most cases, the urban poor thrive on informal economy, live in overcrowded conditions, and have limited access to basic social services including water, sanitation and health and formal social safety nets. More so, urban livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa, unlike rural setups, are less diversified, irregular, and unstable and are dominantly informal and more reliant on markets and cash economy. These aspects were disrupted by the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions put in place to control the spread of the pandemic, in turn deepening the vulnerability of the urban poor. The drastic economic slow-down in several Sub-Saharan African countries in 2020 resulted in a disproportionate level of loss of income and employment among the urban poor. A combination of disrupted food systems, food price volatilities, inflation and high food prices meant reduced household capacity to afford food from markets. Consequently, it is estimated that in 2020, 68.1 million urban population were at risk of acute food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa -42 percent of the total 162 million food insecure populations including in rural areas. Of the 68.1 million, 22 million were in Central Africa, 16 million in West Africa, 15.7 million in East Africa and 14.4 million in Southern Africa. Ultimately, considerable gains in addressing poverty and inequalities for the last 10 years have all been wiped out under the impact of the pandemic with the socioeconomic situation of the urban poor coming off worse.
The analysis also reveals distinct regional differences to understand the diversity of urban solutions and desired fixes, while also providing the implications of these scenarios for inclusive and sustainable urban development. For example, the analysis demonstrates that in some regions, a new kind of infrastructure and supportive services are required to support inclusive urban development in rapidly urbanizing regions of Africa amidst stagnant or slower improvements in the per capita incomes, and a worsening housing crisis as manifested through the proliferation of slums and informal settlements.