Fast food is one of the high-growth modern retail business in Africa. With chicken representing the continent’s primary source of protein, this industry has to keep pace with the growing demand from the fast food chain.
With the emergence of a sizeable middle class in Africa, estimated around 313 million, the African families now have a comfortable disposable that can permit them to eat out on regular basis. Quick service restaurants have become a family outing for a Saturday or Sunday night meal. With African population growing and incomes rising fast, restaurant businesses are thriving like never before across the continent. Much of Africa remains a virgin landscape for food business. As the African consumers have an inclination for fast food rather than full service dinner, the franchise owners of fast food chains, such as Nando, KFC, Steers and Wimpy, are multiplying their outlets in the main African cities. Despite growing competition from international rivals, local fast food groups are also starting to make breakthrough by targeting the lower-income group through lower price menu items.
The spectacular growth in fast food business in Africa is creating enormous demand for chicken and putting tremendous pressure on African chicken industry. Chicken trade across the continent remains the most protected market in the world. Chicken industry in many African countries is controlled by either current or ex-political figures. By wielding high level of protectionism, they are reluctant to meet high quality assurance standards and are resistant to the entry of new local farmers. The sales strategy of the fast food chains is based on global quality standards and just-in-time delivery. No fast food company can afford to wait for any delay in supply of chickens.
The demand for chicken on the African continent is so enormous that suppliers from overseas are tempted to get a foothold on this market. Recently, the shipments of Brazilian poultry meat has surged on the South African market to such an extent that the authorities in Pretoria has lodged a case of dumping against Brazil at the World Trade Organisation. The stake is so high as it is a matter of billion dollars business.
Mauritius, although being thousands of miles away from the continent, can position itself to benefit from the Africa’s consumer boom in fast food industry. While very few Mauritian firms may have the clout to open fast food outlet across the continent, nonetheless local farmers can be equipped to expand and improve their chicken production and get a share of the overseas market. This will require efficiency and sophistication in the production and supply methods; transfer of knowledge and technology; and capital investment in meeting the quality standards. More importantly, they will need institutional support in addressing the issues of market access, market intelligence and logistic chain.
Africa is unfolding itself as a consuming continent and a profitable market for fast food industry. Mauritius must seize the opportunity to grab something from this “takeaway” business.