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This paper examines the relationship between food security and the Food Supply and Distribution Systems (FSDS) in Francophone African towns, against the background of a steeply rising urban demand, in a fluctuating social and economic environment. It also provides input for the preparation of policies to develop urban FSDS to improve the food security of the people in the countries of Africa undergoing economic stabilization programmes.

Looking back and at different countries one can see that FSDS are highly dependent on the concept of general policy, which itself swings according to convictions currently in vogue. FSDS can only be viewed in terms of social objectives, which are an essential prerequisite to defining policy.

After reviewing the major challenges facing urban Africa today and tomorrow, the paper examines the particular context of the structural adjustment programmes and their impacts on different constituent elements of food security: meeting need in terms of quantity and quality, access and risk. This is followed by a consideration of the political options for the future: should priority go to supplying the towns, using national, regional or international resources? What role should government and the institutions, including the financial institutions, play? How can employment be fostered, and under what conditions? How should the information needed to ensure the proper operation of a free market system be managed? A number of indispensable issues before defining FSDS development policies are then developed: clear objectives must be pursued by government, a methodological framework adopted with a multi-disciplinary focus, a food security monitoring system instituted, and the policies adopted must be evaluated.

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