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Entrepreneur in Lagos feeding West Africa's appetite for fast food

posted 24 Jul 2011, 13:10 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 24 Jul 2011, 13:13 ]
Nigeria's best known fast food retailer eyes opportunity in the rest of Africa.

LAGOS, NIGERIA REUTERS -   Nigeria's best known food retailer plans to expand into the West African market, the company's chief executive officer has said.

Deji Akinyanju, founder of Food Concepts, one of Nigeria's largest food retailing companies now worth over 150 million US dollars said his company plans to build viable businesses across the continent.

"There is still no strong brand across West Africa, so for instance if you were to go to Ghana you will find three stores run by a particular brand and if you were to go Ivory Coast, you may not find that brand in Ivory Coast, so we have this entire West coast market," he said.

Akinyanju now 42, started business in Nigeria in 2001 with a pizza and chicken outlet using funds raised from family and friends.

In 2003 he opened Butterfield, which is now Nigeria's largest formal bakery, but greater success came with the opening of Chicken Republic in 2004.

Today there are over 70 Chicken Republic outlets and Akinyanju has plans to set up many more.

"We strongly believe that with all the tools, as in funding and human resources, and proper backing in business, we certainly can do 300 to 500 stores in this country, because we see that there is a younger population, we all know that we have may be 70 percent of our population under the ages of 18, and is a growing population, a lot more people are eating out, so that cultural change is happening daily," Akinyanju said.

Nigeria has more than ten major local brands in the country's food retail business worth more than 2 billion US dollars annually. There has been international arrivals such America's Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and many other brands in the market increasing competition for customers and the demand for chicken has outstripped supply.

Which is why Akinyanju is building his own a dedicated poultry farm, which will be the largest in the country an able to keep up with demand from his restaurants and supermarkets.

Food Concepts signed a 20 million US dollar investment deal with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank to improve its social safety and corporate governance standards, to expand in Ghana and increase the availability of convenient affordable food to the masses.

Solomon Adegbie-Quaynor, IFC Country Manager said supporting such enterprises and agribusiness were key priorities for the lender. He added that IFC was supporting various other projects across the food supply chain in Nigeria.

"This is really going to be something that supports the changing demographics in Nigeria and these are part of the reasons why we see growth in the market, and we are also looking to support companies like Food Concept, we already have one investment in this area, with "Tantalisers", and we are now supporting food concept as well, and that is because we see a lot of potential in the entire market," said Adegbie-Quaynor.

Food Concept expects its planned expansion will create thousands of jobs and benefit a number of smaller businesses in the food supply chain. The company already employs over 2000 people.