By Paul Ndiho
July 29, 2011
The founder of Nigeria’s best known fast food retailer is looking at business opportunity in the rest of Africa.
After spending 16 years abroad, Deji Akinyanju, founder of Food Concepts, returned to Nigeria to start one of the country’s largest food chains, one that is now worth over 150 million dollars. The chief executive says he plans to expand into the West African market and 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.”
Now 42, Akinyanju started in business in Nigeria more than 10 years ago, using funds raised from family and friends to open a pizza and chicken outlet. In 2003, he opened Butterfield, 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,”
Nigeria has more than ten major local brands in the country’s 2-billion dollar annual food retail business. There have been international arrivals, such America’s Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and many other brands. The demand for chicken has outstripped supply, which is why Akinyanju is building his own poultry farm, which will be the largest in the country.
Food Concepts signed a 20 million dollar investment deal with the International Finance Corporation (the IFC), to improve its safety and corporate standards, and to expand into Ghana.
Solomon Adegbie-Quaynor with the IFC says supporting such enterprises are key priorities for the lender.
“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 “Tantalizers”, and we are now supporting food concept as well, and that is because we see a lot of potential in the entire market.”
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.