Out of Africa: 5 Expansionist Enterprises with Deep Roots in Africa

The following list of successful enterprises includes firms which started in a singular location in Africa, but have expanded to other African countries, or other continents. While not all of these businesses are owned by Africans, the list reflects Africa as fertile grounds for enterprise. The list is not exhaustive, though.


  1. Nando’s

With locations in five continents, the first Nando’s restaurant was opened in South Africa in 1987 by Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin. The story of Nando’s may not be complete, however, without mention of Dick Enthoven, the billionaire who gave the two founders financial support and whose son runs Nando’s in in the United Kingdom. In 2010, Nando’s UK won the Sunday Times’s Best Place to Work Award in the big company category. Nando’s claims to have the largest collection of South African art in the UK, with over 5,000 works displayed in restaurants.

In South Africa, where unemployment numbers are really high, Nando’s has worked hard to make a difference through the Harambee Programme that recruits young unemployed South Africans, develops them and gives them the skills to get ready to enter the workplace. Since 2012, more than 3,000 Harambee graduates have been given jobs at Nando’s. Nando’s has also embarked on similar programmes in other parts of the world, using the South African model as inspiration.


  1. BancABC

Owned by Atlas Mara, one of the largest financial services investors in Africa (Atlas Mara also has over 30% stakes in Union Bank Nigeria Plc), BancABC is headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana. Founded in 1997, their total asset was valued at $1.81b as at 2015 with shareholders’ equity valued at US $115.75 million.  BancABC was formed as a result of a series of mergers and acquisitions of financial institutions operating in Southern Africa and has given the ABC Holdings group a bold footprint in Africa and a sound understanding of the diverse financial markets within the region. Outside Botswana, BancABC;s presence can also be found in Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Alas Mara, the parent company, was formed by former Barclay’s chief Bob Diamond and  entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar.


  1. Cevital

From food processing to mass distribution, electronics and domestic appliances, iron and steel, flat glass, industrial construction, the automobile industry, services and the media, this family-run group is the first private Algerian company to have invested in a variety of business sectors. Since inception in 1998, the Cevital group has acquired two French, Spanish and Italian companies between 2013 and 2014.

Currently operating with 18,000 employees located on three continents, Cevital is the flagship of the Algerian economy, working continuously to create jobs and wealth. With Cevital, food processing Algeria has transformed from an import economy to an export economy, for oils, margarines and sugar, among others.

Cevital’s products are presently sold in several countries in Europe, the Maghreb, Middle East and West Africa.

In 2015, Issad Rebrab, founder of the Cevital group, was named the wealthiest man in North Africa by Forbes. He is the richest person in Algeria and has estimated assets of $3.2 billion.


  1.  Olam

Established in 1989 by the Kewalram-Chanrai Group as a trader of cashew from Nigeria to India, Olam International, however, relocated its headquarters to Singapore in 1996. The Olam Group has built a global leadership position as a leading agribusiness entity, operating from seed to shelf in 70 countries, supplying food and industrial raw materials to over 23,000 customers worldwide. It grows, sources, processes, manufactures, transports, trades and markets 47 different agricultural products.

Since it was established, Olam has evolved from a single-product, single-country geography, to a multi-product, multinational, agribusiness today, with over 70,000 employees.

From its humble beginnings in Nigeria, Olam International presently operates from 45 countries across the world. Olam is the world’s largest trader of cashew nuts and the second largest global supplier of rice, coffee and cotton. It is also the world’s number one global trader and exporter of cocoa. Matter of fact, the company believes one in every eight chocolate bars consumed worldwide was produced from beans handled by Olam International.

According to EY (formerly Ernst & Young), “One of KCG’s {Kewalram-Chanrai Group’s} most successful markets has been Nigeria, since the early 20th century. Indeed, KCG’s initiatives in Nigeria should be taught at business schools as a case study of how companies can succeed in emerging markets, such as its venturing into agriculture on a commercial basis, and, even more so, how family businesses can continue to be hugely entrepreneurial, regardless of what generation they are currently managed by”.


  1.  Aya

Muhammed Hamid, born in Sudan, is chairman and majority shareholder of the Aya Group in Uganda. With headquarters in Northern Kampala, Uganda, this group’s business activities extend to other African countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan. Aya Group also maintains subsidiaries in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and in New York City. With a total asset base in excess of US$400 million, the group is involved in the following business lines, among others: food processing, investments, transportation, real estate development, hospitality, mining, and merchandising. It is one of the largest corporate employers in Uganda, with over 5,000 people under payroll.

Aya’s transport subsidiary, Fifi Transport Limited, which owned a fleet of Mercedes Benz trucks fitted with state-of-the-art global positioning satellite technology, was one of the few to be so technologically equipped in Africa as at 2006. Fifi Transport has, however, been sold to a Danish company.

The Group’s non-profit foundation assists organizations that cater for needy children. One area that the foundation pays special attention to is the provision of pediatric medications.

Think there are many more such expansionist firms in Africa? Your contributions are welcome.

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Chiamaka Akuba51 Posts

Chiamaka Akuba is a graduate of Mass Communication of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She is passionate about emerging markets and entrepreneurship and is actively working with the industry. She loves her conversations challenging and can’t help laughing when you call her ‘Honourable Writer of the Federal Republic'. Chiamaka is a Staff Writer at Outrepreneurs.


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