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Updated 08 Aug 2020

Sub-Saharan Africa shopping centre development growth increases

A relatively new phenomenon to the region, retail malls have only recently been developed across Africa. But the subsequent success of these few modern shopping centres is attracting regional and international developers, particularly within Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Catherine Bristow, 15 March 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Traditional markets have commonly been the primary means for consumers to shop within Africa. Unlike the rest of the world, modern shopping centres were only introduced over the last decade, with Ghana seeing the first successful modern mall opening in 2008 in Accra.

The success of Accra Mall has encouraged further development, with West Hills Mall opening in 2014 and extensions currently underway for both malls.

The success of these malls has encouraged developers, both regionally and internationally, to turn their attention to Sub-Saharan Africa and the potential for developing additional modern shopping malls within the continent.

Related: The growth of Africa’s economies

Growing consumer markets

According to a recent report by Knight Frank, titled Shop Africa 2016, “Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a wave of modern mall development, on the back of the growth of the region’s consumer markets.”

“Even though retail construction activity has accelerated, nearly all of the region’s major cities remain extremely undersupplied by international standards, and development is set to continue apace.”

Attractive cities


Ghana’s second city, Kumasi has sparked interest with developers and the potential for mall developments is already in the pipeline. There are also a number of projects under construction in second-tier Nigerian cities such as Onitsha, Benin City and Abeokuta.

The trend within Sub-Saharan cities is towards the development of high quality malls servicing a large market.

Second and third tier cities

Statistics indicate that only 30 percent of Kenyans, four percent of Ghanaians and two percent of Nigerians shop in modern malls as traditional markets are conveniently located for most buyers, while modern shopping centres have been limited to first tier cities.

As competition increases in major cities, developers should look for opportunities within second and third tier cities, the Knight Frank report advises.

It is also important to select the right micro locations within these cities and identify the focal points for retail activity. Identify thriving traditional markets and analyse whether there is the potential to develop a modern shopping centre in these areas.

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Additionally, as urbanisation and the African middle class grows, there will be increasing pressure for developers to differentiate their malls from competing shopping centres through offering well-known international brands and high-quality consumer products.

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Catherine Bristow

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