Urban food retailing and food prices in Africa: the case of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Thomas Assefa (Ethiopia Strategy Support Program, Ethiopian Development Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
Girum Abebe (Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
Indra Lamoot (Agency for Nature and Forest, Brugge, Belgium)
Bart Minten (Ethiopian Strategy Support Program, International Food Policy Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

Journal of Agribusiness in Developing and Emerging Economies

ISSN: 2044-0839

Publication date: 14 November 2016

Abstract

Purpose

Despite the large interest in urban food markets, there are, however still relatively few good studies that have empirically documented the functioning of retail markets in developing countries, especially in Africa. The purpose of this paper is to look in particular at the case of Addis Ababa, a city of more than four million people and the capital of Ethiopia, one of the most populous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. To better understand urban food retail, the authors rely on a large primary survey.

Design/methodology/approach

To better understand urban food retail, the authors rely on a large primary survey. Based on a stratified sampling scheme representative for the city as a whole, 1,226 urban food retail outlets were interviewed in March and April 2012.

Findings

The authors find increasing differentiation in food retail markets in recent years. Despite the prohibition of foreign direct investment in food retail, a domestic modern private retail sector is quickly emerging. However, its share is still very small and, in contrast to roll-outs of modern retail in other countries, it has not yet entered the cereal sector, which remains in the hands of local flour mills, cereal shops, and cooperative retail outlets. The importance of cooperative retail is growing even more rapidly. It is especially important for those products where supply chains are controlled by the government. On the high-end, domestic private modern retail outlets deliver high-quality products at significantly higher prices, ceteris paribus. At the other side, the authors see cooperative retail that delivers food at significantly lower – and subsidized – prices. However, the latter shops are characterized by typical price control problems, reflected in regular lack of supplies and queuing.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to the city of Addis Ababa and it seems useful if similar studies could be conducted in other cities in Africa.

Originality/value

Despite the large interest in urban food markets, there are still relatively few good studies that have empirically documented the functioning of retail markets in developing countries, especially in Africa. The paper therefore contributes to fill this lacuna by studying urban food retail markets using new and unique data for Africa.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was conducted by the Ethiopia Strategy Support Program II of the International Food Policy Research Institute. Funding for this program was provided by USAID, DfId, and CIDA. The authors would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for useful comments and suggestions.

Citation

Assefa, T., Abebe, G., Lamoot, I. and Minten, B. (2016), "Urban food retailing and food prices in Africa: the case of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia", Journal of Agribusiness in Developing and Emerging Economies, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 90-109. https://doi.org/10.1108/JADEE-02-2015-0009

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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