Africanop­fitehe Pieces

From Ac­cra to Nairobi, busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties abound

Business Traveler (USA) - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Jane Labous and Cle­ment Huang

Wan­der­ing around Ac­cra Mall in Ghana’s cap­i­tal, it’s hard to be­lieve that this city was ever con­sid­ered part of the“de­vel­op­ing world.”Fash­ion­able cou­ples prom­e­nade through Mango, Puma, Levi’s and Ap­ple stores; women emerge from glam­orous bou­tiques; a huge su­per­mar­ket sells ev­ery­thing from ice cream to bar­be­cues; a five-screen cin­ema shows all the lat­est Hol­ly­wood re­leases; and there’s park­ing for 900 cars – many of them flashy SUVs. All this with­out men­tion­ing the food court of­fer­ing fried chicken, smooth­ies and a bouncy cas­tle for the kids.

Drive there via the spi­ral­ing high­ways of the city, mean­while, and you see glossy ads for iPhones, beauty prod­ucts, flights, mort­gages and the lux­ury con­dos that have re­cently ap­peared in the re­gion.

It’s the same in many ma­jor African cities. Nairobi, La­gos, Cairo and Dakar are all ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a shop­ping boom. It’s the new fash­ion­able pas­time, along with fit­ness (gyms are hav­ing a mo­ment, too).

In Dakar, the Sea Plaza mall houses 44 shops in­clud­ing Benet­ton and Aldo, ten restau­rants, a cin­ema and a spa run by the Radis­son ho­tel group on a site that, back in the 1990s, was a rugged bit of cliff over­hang­ing the Gulf of Guinea in the At­lantic Ocean with­out even a paved road run­ning past it.

In La­gos, the Ikeja mall opened in 2012, while the Palms cen­ter is home to brands in­clud­ing Hugo Boss, Mango, Mac, Wran­gler, Swatch and Sony, plus a cin­ema, food court and 1,000 park­ing spa­ces. In Lusaka, Zam­bia, sev­eral com­plexes of­fer su­per­mar­kets, cloth­ing, elec­tron­ics and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, led by South African re­tailer Sho­prite and Wool­worths.

There is more growth to come. In two years, it’s an­tic­i­pated that there will be 179 new malls in Africa.“The num­ber of new malls is im­pres­sive, driven by re­tail­ers’grow­ing in­ter­est in look­ing for new growth op­por­tu­ni­ties,”says Julien Garcier, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Sa­gaci Re­search, which in 2013 pre­dicted strong retail growth across the con­ti­nent by 2017. “We are to­day at a ma­jor turn­ing point across the con­ti­nent.” the de­mand for con­sumer goods. Africa has the world’s youngest pop­u­la­tion, with more than half un­der 20.

The con­sump­tion habits of th­ese young peo­ple are quite dif­fer­ent from their el­ders – they are more likely to search for in­for­ma­tion on­line, seek­ing prod­ucts and stores that re­flect the right im­age; they are more brand-con­scious, look­ing for the lat­est fash­ions and trends; and they like to try new things. Com­bined with ur­ban­iza­tion and the in­creased avail­abil­ity of credit, it seems like a win­ning for­mula.

In the cities, more and more peo­ple are flock­ing to malls rather than the smaller, in­for­mal shops and mar­kets that have been the tra­di­tional choice. They are seen as places to eat, drink and so­cial­ize.

Ac­cord­ing to McKin­sey, Africa’s con­sumer-fac­ing in­dus­tries are pre­dicted to grow by more than $400 bil­lion by 2020, ac­count­ing for

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