French retailer plans 80 malls in Africa to cater to rising African middle class

French retailer Comptoir Francais de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CFAO) teamed up with the Carrefour supermarket group to open its first shopping mall in Africa last week.

The $66m PlaYce Marcory centre in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Côte d’Ivoire, is to be the first of 80 across west and central Africa as demand grows for higher value goods and brands.

The new mall was declared open by the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara.  

Jun Karube, chief executive of Toyota Tsusho Corporation, which owns CFAO, also attended the ceremony.

Spanning 20,000 square metres, the PlaYce Marcory has a Carrefour hypermarket, a shopping mall with 55 stores, and a food court that seats over 400.

According to CFAO, the centre created 550 direct jobs and will meet "the most stringent standards in international mass retail".

PlaYce Marcory in Abidjan (CFAO)

Côte d’Ivoire is one of the most advanced economies in west Africa – some 20% of Abidjan’s 5 million residents are considered middle class – and CFAO plans to open a dozen smaller malls there.

The rise of African retail is expected to accelerate in the coming years as incomes rise among fast growing economies.

Last year South Africa’s Standard Bank estimated that the African middle class has tripled in size over the past 14 years.

In 2012 consultant McKinsey predicted that the continent’s consumer industries will grow by more than $400bn by 2020.

The fall since then in global commodity prices may work against that outcome, but Africa is still seen as a high growth market, as well as being a virgin one for many global brands.

Last week Burger King opened its first west African restaurant, also in Abidjan. Up until now it has only operated in South Africa.

Richard Bielle, the director general of CGAO, told Reuters Africa: "We estimate that in 2040, 250 million Africans will have sufficient income to … consume. It’s precisely to accompany this formidable growth of this middle class that CFAO is looking to open 80 centres."

Top photograph: A view of downtown Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Wikimedia Commons)

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