The positive impact of the expansion of supermarkets on the African workforce

April 16, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

Since the early 2000s, research on transforming food systems has focused on the rapid growth of modern food retailing in developing countries and its impact on the workforce.

Most of this work focused on supermarkets, a term used to also mean modern food distributors, including general food stores such as supermarkets, hypermarkets, neighborhood shops and other convenience stores.

The "supermarket revolution" refers to the rapid expansion of various types of modern food retail outlets in developing countries since the early 1990s.

Structural factors responsible for the expansion of modern food retailing include urbanization and rising incomes, trade liberalization, growing middle classes and increased participation of women in the urban workforce. Modern food retailing responds to emerging consumer demands for a variety of food products available under one roof and in a safe and comfortable environment. Major national and international brands generate consumer confidence in food safety and quality, especially in environments where public food safety standards are poorly enforced.

In addition to these structural factors, the rapid growth of supermarkets over the past two decades has been driven by a massive increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) in food processing and distribution, and ultimately food logistics. This influx of investment has been driven by the opening up of various developing regions to trade and foreign investors since the 1980s. Since then, supermarket chains have expanded from saturated OECD markets to emerging markets that offered higher initial profits and advantages of precursor status. Data collected in Latin America, East Asia and some African countries (South Africa, Kenya) show that developing countries share common characteristics in the expansion of supermarkets.

South Africa and Kenya have been the leaders in the expansion of supermarkets in Africa. Both experienced rapid expansion of their supermarkets between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. While the development of supermarkets in other African countries has progressed at a much slower pace, there is some evidence that acceleration given the recent arrival of international supermarket chains and the prospects for sustained economic growth. Therefore, the experiences in these two countries can provide useful lessons for other countries, especially those in West Africa. In line with international practice, Kenyan and South African supermarkets have increased their market shares for packaged food products much faster than for other fresh products, given the challenges of building reliable supply chains. for these last ones.

Any creation of a new company always has an impact on the workforce of the company in which the said company was established. This impact is always felt more with large supermarkets which need large numbers of staff. The expansion of supermarkets is therefore accompanied, in all the countries where major retailers have established themselves, by a relative fall in the unemployment rate. In fact, each time a supermarket is set up in a country, it is a part of the unemployed who find employment because manpower is needed to operate these companies.

Source: FAO

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