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5 wealthy supermarket and retail chain owners in Africa

by Feyisayo Ajayi
Christo Wiese

Africa’s economic landscape is undergoing a remarkable shift, with the retail sector emerging as a pivotal driving force. At the forefront of this transformation stand influential billionaire owners, who have not only elevated their retail businesses to unprecedented heights but have also molded Africa’s financial trajectory.

Notable among them are Christo Wiese, a South African billionaire who played a key role in the growth of Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite Holdings, and Tayo Amusan, a Nigerian property magnate who is driving change in the Nigerian retail industry.

Their visionary prowess has not only caught the attention of Western retailers seeking new avenues for growth but has also steered the course of Africa’s retail evolution.

As Africa’s domestic consumer spending displays a certain level of constraint, these retail magnates become the catalysts for change, transforming shopping centers into leisure destinations that resonate within Nigeria and beyond.

Their ingenious entrepreneurship has sewn the seeds of a dynamic retail sector, nurturing employment, fostering innovation, and nurturing economic growth within Africa’s burgeoning $3.14-trillion GDP.

The impact of their ventures is most apparent in the soaring success of their retail chains – a testament to Africa’s vibrant retail panorama. With Africa’s equity market gaining momentum, these visionary trailblazers persist in shaping the continent’s economic destiny.

Their achievements stand as a compelling testament to retail’s transformative prowess, illustrating its capacity to reshape economies and enhance lives. As these retail giants continue to chart unprecedented achievements, their grip on Africa’s economic future remains unwavering.

According to Billionaires.Africa, here are the five visionary owners steering the course of Africa’s retail renaissance.

  1. Christo Wiese

Nationality: South African

Company: Shoprite Holdings

South African retail tycoon Christoffel “Christo” Wiese has played a pivotal role in the evolution of Shoprite, transforming it from a chain of eight supermarkets in Cape Town in 1979 to a retail powerhouse that now encompasses more than 2,989 stores across the African continent, employing around 142,000 individuals. Holding multiple stakes in various companies, Wiese’s 11.63 percent stake in Shoprite Holdings positions him as the second-largest shareholder in the leading African retailer, valued at more than $730 million. This significant stake in Shoprite has earned him a place among the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s wealthiest investors.

  1. Ivan and Lynette Saltzman

Nationality: South African

Company: Dis-Chem Pharmacies

The visionary leadership of Ivan and Lynette Saltzman has been the driving force behind the astounding growth of Dis-Chem Pharmacies since its establishment in 1978. Their transformative efforts have propelled Dis-Chem into becoming a premier retail pharmacy chain across Africa, managing a network of more than 300 stores. The Saltzman family’s profound understanding of both the retail and healthcare sectors has enabled Dis-Chem Group to expand its services, encompassing family clinics and wound care centers. With an impressive 45.2-percent stake, the Saltzman family’s influence on Dis-Chem’s expansion has positioned them as key players in the African retail landscape.

  1. Raymond Ackerman and Family

Nationality: South African

Company: Pick ‘n Pay

The Ackerman legacy within Pick ‘n Pay stores has left an indelible mark on the continent’s retail industry. Founded in 1967 by Raymond Ackerman, the retail giant has thrived under his leadership and continues its upward trajectory under his son, Gareth Ackerman, the company’s chairman. The Ackerman family’s stewardship has fueled Pick ‘n Pay’s expansion to more than 2,000 stores across eight African nations. In 2022, the retailer achieved an impressive 8.9-percent increase in revenue, soaring from R97.9 billion ($5.36 billion) to R106.6 billion ($5.84 billion), solidifying its status as a leading player in the African retail industry.

  1. Ramachandran Ottapathu

Nationality: Botswana

Company: Choppies Enterprises

The co-founder of Choppies Enterprises, Ramachandran Ottapathu, holds a substantial 24.48-percent controlling interest in the Gaborone-based retail conglomerate. His leadership has been instrumental in Choppies’ expansive growth. With an extensive distribution network stretching across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya, Choppies has positioned itself as a retail powerhouse. Ottapathu’s strategic leadership has been pivotal in the company’s success, offering a diverse inventory featuring global food brands and exclusive private-label products, making Choppies a significant player in multiple African markets.

  1. Tayo Amusan

Nationality: Nigerian

Company: Persianas Group

Nigerian property magnate Tayo Amusan stands as a prominent figure in Africa’s retail industry through his venture, Persianas Group. This leading group has demonstrated its ability to conceive, construct, and manage high-quality retail, residential, and commercial spaces in Nigeria. Under Amusan’s leadership, Persianas has expanded its retail units to encompass iconic brands such as The Palms shopping malls—a chain of trendy malls that have transformed retail into a leisure destination within Nigeria. Beyond The Palms, Persianas has acquired the entire 100-percent stake of Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited (RSN), the operator of Shoprite in Nigeria. This acquisition of Shoprite’s Nigerian arm solidifies Tayo Amusan’s influential role in shaping Africa’s retail landscape.

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