With more people in Africa moving to live in cities, and Africa being the fastest urbanizing continent in the world, is it viable for us to continue thinking of food production and food security as a rural issue? The Urban Competitiveness and Resilience (UCR) Department at The Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) and the School of Economic and Business Studies (SEBS) of the University of Witwatersrand organized a refresher course to give us (NUFFIC African alumni) an opportunity to evaluate this. The refresher course offered us the opportunity to learn about cities and their role in optimizing the whole food system from production processing marketing and supporting policies for innovation, knowledge, and job creation towards creating more resilient and competitive cities. It exposed the participants to information on African cities within the global economy and an understanding on how food security is a precondition for sustainable urbanization in Africa.

The refresher course was hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa and brought on board experiences from policy makers, academia, and practitioners that were drawn from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbambwe. The team explored agri-business as a model that urban areas can adopt to boost their competitiveness. To explore this, the team demonstrated planning for food resilient cities by picking three case-studies, Johannesburg, Polokwane and Nairobi. More interesting were visits to various sites like the WITS Siyakhana Food Initiative that demonstrated practical innovative models for promoting urban community participation in food security.

The theme and the content of the refresher course ‘Global Competitive Cities: Agricultural Revolution and Urbanization in Africa’ was very relevant and came at an opportune time when the current world urban campaign is towards creating and promoting resilience of cities as spelled in the SDG 11 that works to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. There could be no better way to promoting resilience in cities than creating cities that can feed themselves and produce surplus for global market as a way of driving their own economies and that of their nations. Further we cannot achieve the SDG 2 of ending hunger and achieving food security and improved nutrition in Africa if we have no plan on how to feed half of the global population that is already living in cities.

The refresher course did not only provide us a learning experience but also a networking experience. It provided us a chance to link up with fellow IHS alumni from Africa and share experiences and moments. At least for two weeks we re-lived our Rotterdam experiences but this time in South Africa.

Author: Ms. Dainah Kinya (on behalf of the Participants of Nuffic Refresher Course in Johannesburg, South Africa)

*This Refresher Course on Food Security in Johannesburg, South Africa was held by Prof. Dr. Ronald Wall and Dorcas Nthoki  from IHS UCR specialization, in collaboration with the School of Economic and Business Sciences (SEBS) of the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), from 26th Sept 2016 to 07th October 2016.

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