The City 

By 2100 Nigeria alone will be home to roughly as many people as China - more than North and South America combined. Most of these people will live, work, eat, and play in cities. Not necessarily mega-cities like Lagos or Ciaro, but medium size cities, where once existed small towns or villages. Not simply rural people moving to big cities, but rural areas themselves being transformed. To understand this radical re-imagining of what it means to be African (wither the rural myth) our very understanding of the nature of urbanism and the city also needs to shift. African cities, for the most part will not resemble, static master-planned cities of China or the North. They will be dynamic, informal and evolutionary process dominated citizen place-making and entrepreneurial opportunism.

(Top: Fishermen in a slum district on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, ply the polluted urban waters for fish. Image by Paul Currie

Above: A chef preparing food at a stall in the Djemaa el Fna in the city of Marrakech, Morocco. Every night the main square fills with dozens of food vendors and their carts. Getty Images)

As an urban existence transforms our daily reality and young men and women wake up to the sound of busy traffic, bustling back streets and glowing bill boards, the nature of the entire food system which underpins the continent will undergo a similarly radical transformation.

This transformation of the African food into an urban future will restructure food value chains, create new market opportunities for micro and mega retailers alike, and transform diets. Fast food, cheap meat, pre-packed, disposable, sanitised, on the go, cash based, status driven, ‘modern’ diets will rule the day for some. While others, trapped in urban poverty, disconnected for any means of food production are likely to face new challenges in access as cash increasingly becomes the critical intermediary in accessing bodily sustenance. Against this backdrop massive transnational food corporations and local traders alike, will enter a battle to secure their stake in the final frontier of the global food market – the gold rush of the 21st century. Fortunes will be made and lost.

Massive flows of nutrients will make their way from soils into cities in search of stomachs, nourishing city dwellers, before being discarded as food waste or sewerage into the waste streams of the city. Where they will either end up in toxic concentrations as pollutants, or be transformed into resources for other systems and reintegrated back to the soil.  And, as the often fertile land which surrounds our cities is swallowed in concrete and corrugated iron, and the youth who once took over farming from their parents leave the land in search of more enticing futures, the existence of the city will mold the rural landscape.

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