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Deep-fried future (5) Africa loves fast food but there are many challenges

Many African communities still live below the World Bank's poverty line of US$1.25 a day and are likely to continue to do so for years to come.

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Shisa Nyama play

Shisa Nyama


Written by Stuart Graham

Yet, despite the optimism for QSRs in Africa, the industry still faces enormous challenges here.

Many African communities still live below the World Bank's poverty line of US$1.25 a day and are likely to continue to do so for years to come.

In Kenya, the most developed economy in East Africa, nearly 50% of the 41 million population live below the poverty line, according the US Embassy in Nairobi.

In Malawi, a KFC meal costs nearly US$10, while a chicken piece costs about US$1.30.

Africa's craving for fast food also comes as the World Health Organisation warns of a global obesity and diabetes crisis being fuelled by diets high in sugar, fat and sodium.

The Glycaemic Index Foundation says that 40% of deaths among westernised South Africans in the economically-active 25-64 age group is due to chronic diseases of lifestyle that include cancer, hypertension, diabetes, strokes and coronary heart disease.

McDonald’s, which is being hit by a wave of ad negative publicity over its menu, has been trying to counter perceptions about the poor quality of its ingredients in the US by launching wraps and sirloin burgers.

In March the company announced it would begin sourcing chicken raised with minimal antibiotics and would use milk from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones.

In Africa healthier diets, which are often far more expensive, have yet to attract widespread interest.

Many are only now tasting true globalised junk-food for the first time.

Africans, says Euromonitor’s Ebrahim, continue to demand value offerings before healthy alternatives.

On average, healthy food choices tend to reflect higher average prices, making it expensive to the mass market,” Ebrahim says.

The move towards lower carbohydrate, low-sugar foods is likely to intensify over the next five years, according to Euromonitor.

Global fast-food chains, even those in Africa, will need to be conscious of this trend as patrons become more informed about what they eat.

For Zwane, success is the only option. She wants the cuisine served at Imbizo Shisanyama to be recognised as the official cuisine of South Africa, as pasta is in Italy.

Her dreams are big. Her brand will be even bigger than Nando's one day, she predicts, with branches in New York, Tokyo and London. One thing is sure:

Imbizo Shisanyama must never forget what it is.

We want to keep the culture that we have at Imbizo Shisanyama,” Zwane says.

If someone buys a franchise, they have to carry the authenticity of the brand with them. People must always know that Imbizo Shisanyama is a township braai where family and friends share a special time together.”

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