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Supermarkets in Africa

The rise of supermarkets in Africa since the mid-1990s is transforming the food retail sector.
Supermarkets have spread fast in Southern and Eastern Africa, already proliferating beyond middle class big-city
markets into smaller towns and poorer areas. Supplying supermarkets presents both potentially large
opportunities -- and big challenges for producers. Supermarkets' procurement systems involve purchase
consolidation, shift to specialized wholesalers, and tough private quality and safety standards. To meet these
requirements, producers have to make investments and adopt new practices. That is hardest for small producers,
who thus risk exclusion from dynamic urban markets increasingly dominated by supermarkets. There is an urgent
need for development programmes and policies to assist them in adopting the new practices that the supermarkets'
procurement systems demand.


Shoprite Checkers has been operating in Zambia for over 10 years now and has a total of 18 supermarkets throughout the country. A notable practice of Shoprite Checkers has been the exploitation of cheap human resources through casual employment contracts. The bulk of employees employed by Shoprite are casual workers.
A survey carried out by the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) revealed that Shoprite employs casual workers for periods of 24 hours per week at the rate of K22,000 (about US$5). However, they still get K22,000 per week when they have worked for more than 24 hours. In some shops, casual workers work over 45 hours per week but still earn K22,000. To make things worse, casual workers? earnings depend on sales targets being reached. If sales fall below the targets, the weekly rate of K22,000 is reduced accordingly.
Some of the workers have worked as casuals for over two years. When a permanent worker is fired, he/she is normally replaced by a casual worker. Shoprite has benefited from this arrangement to the detriment of workers by avoiding responsibilities that go along with permanent employment. The casual workers have no benefits apart from their weekly pay and are hired and fired at will.
Shoprite is now Africa's largest retailer, with over 700 shops in 16 countries and a total workforce of 63,000 employees. They have expanded as far as Egypt, Madagascar, Mauritius and India. Unlike most foreign supermarkets in Africa, Shoprite targets mostly low and middle-income shoppers.


The Rwenzori Coffee Company, with offices in Uganda and South Africa, will next week launch its Good African Coffee brand of finest arabica coffees in 134 Waitrose supermarkets across the UK. “Our overall objective is to bring quality African products to the global market,” says Andrew Rugasira, the company’s founder and chairman. Good African Coffee will feature three roast and ground varieties – Espresso, Gold and Prestige – all packed in 227gm packets.

This is the second major trading milestone in the Rwenzori Coffee Company’s history. In February 2004, the company launched its coffee in Shoprite Checkers, Africa’s largest supermarket chain with 700 supermarkets operating in 15 African countries. This initiative launched a major drive by the company and Shoprite Checkers to promote intra-African trade. Rwenzori Coffee is currently engaged in negotiations with other supermarkets in Africa to carry its brand and expand its pan-African presence.

In coming to the UK, the company has achieved one of its key objectives of putting an African owned coffee brand on UK supermarket shelves. According to Andrew Rugasira, “Our company employs a business model that recognises the growers and their communities not just as suppliers but as stakeholders. With a network of over 10,000 farmers in the Rwenzori mountain range area in Uganda, the company has for the first time linked the African grower with an African owned enterprise and a prestigious UK retail chain to create a genuine and mutually beneficial partnership for development.



S.N.I.W, Parc d'Innovation de la Haute Borne - Cité Scientifique - 4 rue Archimède - 59650 Villeneuve d'Ascq, France - Tel: - Fax: - E-mail: sniw@nordnet.fr

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