French distribution group CFAO has opened its first shopping mall in Africa. as Hayley Platt reports the $66 million centre in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is an attempt to attract the continent's growing middle classes.
They've been part of the landscape in the West for decades. But this is French Distribution group CFAO's first foray into Africa. The 66 million dollar shopping mall in Abidjan is in collaboration with French retailer Carrefour. And first in line was Ivory Coast President (ALANSAN WHATARA) Alassane Ouattara. ` (SOUNDBITE) (French) ALASSANE OUATTARA, IVORY COAST PRESIDENT, SAYING: "I think we will all come for our Christmas gifts and Ivorians are happy. Prices have started to fall and competition has begun." The mall will house 50 stores including a bank and a Burger King. But it's not all about foreign companies moving in - 170 local firms will be supplying produce to the shops. (SOUNDBITE) (French) PIERRE GRAH, ABIDJAN RESIDENT, SAYING: "It's great for us and it's nice because it allows everyone to make choices. We don't need to order things from outside - everything is here now." Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa grower and it's economy has been growing at the rate of around 9 percent for the past 3 years. Around 20 per cent of the population is now considered middle-class. Economic analyst Essis Esmel says the potential for more is attracting investors. (SOUNDBITE) (French) ESSIS ESMEL, ECONOMIC ANALYST, SAYING: "It created 500 jobs with 800 more indirect ones. It's also good that this international brand is lending more credibility to Ivory Coast - it proves the country is really on the way up." Half the population in Ivory Coast still lives in poverty. But the goverment has plans to halve that by investing more than 48 billion dollars over the next five years. CFAO will be investing too - it's planning to open 79 stores in eight countries across West and Central Africa over the next decade.