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The Digital Transformation of Food Security and Migration

September 27 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Presentation 1: Digital remittances and cross-border food transfers: Recent insights from Zimbabwean migrants living in Cape Town, South Africa

Presenter: Sean Sithole
Co-authors: Daniel Tevera and Mulugeta F. Dinbabo  

Abstract

Digital remittances provide accessible, cheap and rapid channels to transfer international remittances. A growing body of research in Africa has underscored the development potential of digital and mobile transfers, which are essential in the transmission of remittances; however, the literature has predominantly focused on cash transfers. The transmission of non-cash transfers such as food remittances has been under-researched, yet they contribute to household food and nutrition security in the global South. The study addresses the research gap on the nexus between digital remittances and cross-border food transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in general and Southern Africa in particular. The study is based on a mixed method involving questionnaires and in-depth interviews with Zimbabwean migrants residing in Cape Town who transmit food remittances back home to Zimbabwe. The research findings reveal emerging South-South food remittances trends and innovative digital pathways of transferring remittances that were crucial when informal channels were disrupted in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in South Africa.

About the presenter

Sean Sithole is a post-Doctoral fellow at the Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape. Sean’s research interests include migration and food security nexus, digital remittances and mobile transfers, social media and migrant networks.

Presentation 2: E-grocery as a New Site of Financialization? Financial Drivers of the Rapid Development in China’s E-grocery Sector and the Food Security Implications

Presenter: Ning Dai
Co-authors: Zhenzhong Si, Phoebe Stephens

Abstract

During the past decade, the e-grocery sector in China has experienced double-digit growth and especially embarked on rapid development since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of this hypergrowth was fueled by changing consumption habits and pandemic-induced demand for contactless food delivery. However, this study highlights some other important but under-researched drivers of the e-grocery boom–the investment spikes made by investors and giant e-commerce corporations. This study characterizes the recent financial investments in China’s e-grocery sector and analyzes the food security implications, which contributes to the scholarly literature on financialization, corporate power, and digitalization in the food systems in novel ways. This study advances three research findings: a)the e-grocery sector has become a new site of capital accumulation in the food sector; b)this new site was developed partly through the pandemic-induced demand for food delivery and partly as a by-product of the internet bubble in China; c)by the last quarter of 2021 and in 2022, investors largely fled China’s e-grocery sector after the lockdowns halted , the anti-trust crackdown was launched, and as most e-grocery businesses struggled to make a profit. Overall, the boom and bust of the e-grocery bubble in China posed multiple challenges to food security, such as undercutting and undermining the traditional food markets, causing cash flow crises for grocery suppliers, compromising the fair competition in the grocery market, deteriorating consumer rights and services, and compounding the food safety concerns.

About the presenter

Ning Dai is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Wilfrid Laurier University and the School of International Policy and Governance. Ning holds a PhD in Geography and Environmental Management from the University of Waterloo. He has long-standing research interests and extensive experience in the sustainable transformations in China’s food systems. More specifically, his research investigates the adoption of ecological agriculture and the recent development of the e-grocery sector in China. He is currently working on the CIHR-funded project “Accessing and Mitigating the Food Security Consequences of COVID-19 in China” and the MiFOOD Project to understand the relations between COVID-19, migration, and food security. Ning also serves on the Board of Directors at Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS).

MiFOOD is hosting a series of webinars on various topics about migration and food security that highlight the progress of the project. These webinars include conceptual discussion, empirical findings and policy analysis. Through these webinars, we intend to build a community with various stakeholders for knowledge sharing, deepen the understanding of the complex intersections between migration and food security, and facilitate the discussion of effective policy interventions. Follow the MiFOOD Twitter (Moving on Empty), Like the MiFOOD Facebook page to be notified about upcoming webinars.

Photo of the Mukuru logo in a window

Photo credit: Sean Sithole

Details

Date:
September 27
Time:
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Cost:
Free
Event Category:

Venue

Virtual
Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON Canada
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