We joined the food revolution—and you can, too

Musana cartAfrica’s urban areas are booming, experiencing a high urban growth rate over the last two decades at 3.5% per year. This growth rate is expected to hold into 2050. With this growth, street food is going to become one of the most important components of African diets. The formal sector will just not be able to keep up!

Enter my company, Musana Carts, which tackles the #FoodRevolution challenge from the end of the food value chain. Musana Carts, which currently operates in Uganda, streamlines and improves the production and consumption of street food.

Why did we decide to focus on street food?

Despite the illegal status of unlicensed street food vendors, who are regularly evicted from markets, street vending is an age old industry. Low income families spend up to 40% of their income in street food (Nri). 

People eat street food because it is affordable, abundant, delicious and has a local and emotional flavor. Street food plays a key role in the development of cities. It is the one place where the posh and the poor from all walks of life meet and forget their social differences for the few seconds it takes to savor a snack.

Street foods tell a story. They capture the flavor of a nation and the pride of a tribe: in Uganda, the rolex, a rolled chapatti with an omelet, has been named one of the fastest growing African street foods. The minister for tourism made it the new Ugandan tourism product.

The latent potential for street food in Africa is huge but it still has a long way to go. Musana Carts addresses it in an innovative way, to make street vending a transformative industry in any country’s economy. We are using a user centered design approach, working closely with the street vendors to improve the carts, and design food handling and processing training as well as financial literacy tools.

Failing to improve street food could put the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands in Kampala’s informal street food sector –which is an important sector of the economy–at risk.  And it’s not just the vendors who would be impacted. The health of consumers would be jeopardized if food safety problems are not addressed. The loss of public confidence in street foods would not only jeopardize incomes of vendors but also that of their employees, as well as producers and traders of inputs.

Musana Carts is the bridge between street vendors, NGOs, local authorities and food standards authorities. This bridge is a clean and solar powered street vending cart. Making street vendors dependable and sustainable will improve the city as much as Ugandans’ way of life. Today, after many hours of research and negotiations, we have 10 carts running in Kampala, with 30 vendors working on them. At Musana Carts, we envision an Africa where street vendors run local businesses with dignity and prosperity.

Read the rest of the article here.

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