French distribution group CFAO opened its first shopping mall in Africa on Friday, a $66 million centre in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan, as part of a major drive to tap into the growth of Africa's middle classes.
The mall, a collaboration with French retailer Carrefour, is the first of 80 that CFAO plans to open in eight countries in West and Central Africa in the next decade.
CFAO, which stands for Comptoir Francais de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, is active in the vehicle, pharmaceutical and computer sectors and is 97 percent owned by Japanese company Toyota Tsusho Corp.
"We estimate that in 2040, 250 million Africans will have sufficient income to ... consume. It's precisely to accompany this formidable growth of this middle class that CFAO is looking to open 80 centres," said CFAO Director General Richard Bielle.
The mall will contain 50 stores, a bank and a Burger King. It will also help develop the agricultural sector, as 170 small Ivorian companies will be contracted as suppliers.
Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa grower and the leading economy in French-speaking West Africa. Some 20 percent of Abidjan's 5 million residents are considered middle class, and CFAO plans to open a dozen smaller malls there.
Since emerging from a decade of political turmoil and a brief civil war in 2011, the country has seen rapid economic growth, becoming a darling for investors. President Alassane Ouattara was elected by a landslide in October to a second five-year term.