Franchising in Emerging Markets: Opportunities and Challenges


Emerging markets have become the new frontier for franchising, offering many opportunities for local entrepreneurs and international brands. This trend is particularly evident in South Africa, with the franchise industry experiencing steady growth and meaningful contribution to the economy. As we delve into the world of franchising in emerging markets, we’ll explore the exciting opportunities and the unique challenges that come with it.

The Promise of Franchising in South Africa

South Africa’s dynamic and diverse market presents an ideal environment for franchising. Here are some of the key opportunities:

1. Growing Middle Class: The expanding middle class in South Africa means more disposable income and a greater demand for various goods and services. This creates a ripe market for franchises, especially in the retail, food, and personal care sectors.

2. Brand Recognition: International franchises benefit from their established brand reputation. Consumers are often more willing to trust and invest in known brands, which can lead to quicker market penetration and higher sales. However, about 89% of all franchises in South Africa are home-grown. 

3. Job Creation: Franchising significantly contributes to job creation in South Africa. Entrepreneurs create jobs by setting up a franchise, contributing to the local economy and reducing unemployment rates. It’s estimated that the average franchise creates five direct jobs. 

4. Support and Training: Franchisors provide extensive support and training to franchisees. This helps local entrepreneurs gain valuable business skills and ensures service and product quality consistency across all locations.

5. Proven Business Models: Franchises come with tried-and-tested business models. This reduces the risk for entrepreneurs as they invest in a business with a proven track record of success.

Challenges to Navigate

While the opportunities are abundant, franchising in emerging markets like South Africa is not without its challenges:

1. Economic Volatility: Emerging markets can be prone to economic fluctuations. Inflation, currency depreciation, and political instability can affect consumer spending and business operations. This could increase investment costs, especially related to equipment imported from other countries.

2. Regulatory Environment: Navigating the local regulatory landscape can be complex. In South Africa, franchising is governed by a section of the Consumer Protection Act, which protects the rights of franchisees. Strict labour laws apply, which can be a hurdle for international franchises.

3. Cultural Differences: Understanding and adapting to local tastes and preferences is crucial. What works in one market may only sometimes work in another. Franchises must be flexible and willing to tailor their offerings to meet local needs.

4. Infrastructure Challenges: In some areas, inadequate infrastructure can pose logistical challenges. Poor roads, unreliable electricity, and limited internet connectivity can affect business operations and supply chain efficiency.

5. Access to Finance: Securing financing for aspiring franchisees in emerging markets can be difficult. However, South Africa has a sophisticated banking system, and commercial banks like Nedbank have franchise divisions focused on financing franchises.

Success Stories and Insights

Despite these challenges, many franchises have thrived in South Africa. Take the example of Nando’s, a South African brand that has become a global success. By understanding local tastes and maintaining a solid brand identity, Nando’s has built a loyal customer base locally and internationally.

Another notable success is KFC, which has over 900 outlets in South Africa. KFC’s ability to adapt its menu to local preferences while maintaining its core offerings has been vital to its success.


Franchising in emerging markets like South Africa offers immense potential for growth and success. Local and international franchises can thrive in this dynamic landscape by leveraging the opportunities and strategically addressing the challenges. The key lies in understanding the market, adaptability, and building strong local partnerships. As the franchise industry evolves, the future looks bright for those willing to venture into these promising territories.

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