Transforming Africa through franchising

Transforming Africa through franchising

“We live on a continent with 1.4 billion people, the 2nd fastest growing economy as a continent in the world with many opportunities. There are no other opportunities in the world like in Africa. It is the place to invest but it has to be done properly and franchising has all the elements in place for that to happen.” That is the opinion of Frans van der Colff, MD of VDC Consulting and Faculty and Executive Fellow at Henley Business School – Africa



Frans spent many years at Pick n Pay in many roles, starting as a trainee manager, spent time as a regional manager, a buyer, the general manager of the Franchise Division and finally the Director of Africa and Emerging Markets. He was involved in the opening of more than 300 stores and assisted a number of young black entrepreneurs in acquiring their own stores. After that Frans joined the Fruit & Veg City Group to Head up the African Division for a number of years to run operations outside South Africa. More than 30 stores were opened in eleven African countries.

A great proponent of franchising, Frans believes it is all about successful franchisees making money that ensures that franchisors in turn make money at the end of the day. The rewards are great, with long-term sustainability but a lot of effort and commitment needs to be put in to make it work. “Franchising has been a beacon of opportunity in South Africa over the past fifty years and once it successfully recovers from the ravages of the past two years, it needs to recognise that entrepreneurship, small business and franchising are the keys to unlocking future growth – both locally and in the rest of Africa.”

“Going forward, everyone must understand that governments cannot provide those much needed jobs.” says Frans. “Neither can big business, which is beholden to its shareholders and on a new path of restructuring to fit into the norms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What is needed is a mechanism that creates opportunities, especially for young people, with the correct mentorship, education and training. Franchising, which spans every business sector imaginable and has those fundamental structures in place, is the one mechanism that can do just that.”

Doing business in Africa means building relationships and understanding their values and customs. To simply have the attitude that you are going into Africa to make money and then exit is not the answer to long-term sustainability, both for the franchisor or for the host country. Franchisors have to understand that Africa operates as a village and involvement on many levels of the community is essential to successfully penetrating those markets.

The proposed free trade agreement for Africa will create the largest free trade space with 52 different countries opening up a trading format making it easier for trade and business to flourish. The potential for Africa to have its ‘renaissance’ is huge but there are challenges – ranging from political instability, poverty, logistical challenges and supply restrictions – but these are not insurmountable and with the right partners can be overcome.

More money needs to circulate at the bottom levels of society and this can be done through entrepreneurial development, by training young people and offering them micro franchise opportunities. Franchising offers not only a business model but there is built-in mentoring, entrepreneurial and business skills training and ongoing support. In the African spirit of ubuntu, the shared value approach where all stakeholders share – leads to a thriving community which in turn leads to thriving businesses.

Frans van der Colff believes Africa is an exciting continent, difficult at times but with lots of opportunity – it is in fact a continent that is ready for business. “Africa will always be a continent of sharing, collaboration and working together and that is at the heart of the success of franchising in South Africa. What needs to happen post-pandemic is for all of us to renew our passion for assisting young entrepreneurs to start new businesses spearheading franchise initiatives, and provide strategic development guidance and shedding light on how to succeed on the African continent.”