The rate of fast food consumption in Africa is growing quickly with countries such as South Africa seeing an annual average of 3-4% growth of consumption between 2009 and 2014. In South Africa alone, the number of people buying fast food once a month increased by 14% between 2009 and 2015. International chains are seeing opportunities and they are not letting them slide. It is not surprising to see a KFC outlet in many African countries today. But what exactly draws international chains to these locations?
African countries such as Kenya have a rapidly expanding middle class that craves new tastes and convenience—exactly what fast food chains are now offering. The growing middle class means that there is more disposable income among the population to buy the convenience. In addition, some of these chains blend their tastes with the local dishes, creating new combinations that suit local tastes and attract new customers. Globalization and social media have exposed young people on the Continent to tastes and trends in the rest of the world. As a result, Starbucks, McDonald’s and other international chains are quickly making their way into Africa.
Implications for Health
While these businesses may be experiencing a boom, the growth of fast food chains in Africa has consequences on the health of its people. Fast food is generally unhealthy as it typically has high amounts of fat and calories. In Africa, however, the thriving middle class does not concern itself with such notions. Many of these international chains are, in fact, seen as high-class establishments and families throng these joints in large numbers.
Just as in Western countries, obesity Is also linked to fast food consumption in Africa. The middle class tends to have a sedentary lifestyle; coupled with the high rate of fast food consumption, the percentage of obese adults in Africa is quickly rising. For example, data from the World Health Organization points to a 27% obese adult population in Ghana, and 22% in Liberia.
Conversely, Africa also has some of the highest rates of malnutrition and sometimes a household may have individuals who are obese and others experiencing poor health due to lack of adequate nutrients. Diets now contain high levels of sugar, carbohydrates, and processed foods while the healthcare system in Africa continues to focus on dealing with issues such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. The Continent’s healthcare systems may not be capable of dealing with lifestyle diseases and their consequences on the health of its population.