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What's behind the success of KFC in Africa
04:45 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

KFC is the leading global fast food chain in Africa, with 1,000 restaurants

About 700 are in South Africa, the leading market

The chain is expanding in Nigeria despite a tough economic climate

London CNN  — 

With over 1,000 restaurants in the continent, KFC is the leading fast food chain in Africa.

But its dominance is limited to South Africa, home to about 80 percent of them.

Despite its success, the company faces many challenges as they try to establish the brand in other regions, for example by making sure its food is relevant and recognizable to Africans.

Serving jollof rice, a spicy dish native to West Africa, is one way in which KFC is improvising to win over palates in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria.

Doug Smart, Managing Director, KFC Africa, says: “Every Nigerian will tell you that their mother or wife makes the best jollof rice – and KFC is now making it.”

From the palate to the pocket

In Nigeria, an average KFC meal costs four times more than in other developed markets.

In a continent where people live on $2 a day, a meal that costs more than that is considered to be a luxury.

KFC pays a premium to operate in the oil-rich nation and the company runs a large import bill, paying a 20% tariff on potatoes for its fries bought in all the way from Holland.

Despite sourcing poultry from local producers, KFC has yet to find a local potato supplier.

Its CEO, Roger Eaton, told CNN: “In Africa, in virtually every country in which we operate, the chicken is locally sourced. But that can actually take 18 months, not only to get the supply, but to bring the supply to the standards at which we want to operate.”

But in a tougher economic climate, the food chain has seen sales go down by 14 percent in Nigeria’s 27 restaurants in 2015.

Opportunity trumps challenges

Despite these challenges, KFC is expanding its stores in the country, with 7 new restaurants to open this year.

Thebe Ikafaleng, Founder, CEO, Brand Africa, says: “Big brands require a country to be economically viable. They want to be within a stomach’s reach of a hungry person.”

Eaton remains optimistic about the future: “I think we’ve done a great job of finding great partners, building fantastic looking stores, and having great team members. All of those come together to build a great business.

“We’ll continue to grow at about 50 stores a year.”