From Roswell to Guantanamo Bay, no matter where you are in the word, the famous Golden Arches often aren’t far away. Worldwide, there are 36,899 McDonald’s restaurants stretching across 120 countries. However, mapping out where McDonald’s can’t be found highlights one continent in particular: Africa.

Countries with no existing McDonald’s outlets are highlighted in red

Although the continent is home to over 1.2 billion people, McDonald’s is present in just four African countries: Morocco, Egypt, South Africa and Mauritius. Combined, these markets contain a paltry 387 McDonald’s restaurants. To give a better perspective, there are 393 McDonald’s outlets in Mexico alone.

As core Western markets continue to stagnate, fast food operators should turn their attention to the largely unsaturated African markets, in particular, Nigeria. In 2015, McDonald’s South Africa CEO, Greg Solomon, claimed that “it was not about if, but when” the brand would be entering Nigeria. However, news on the subject has since all but dried up.

A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers looking into long-term global growth projections to 2050 predicted that, between now and 2050, over half of global population growth will occur in Africa. Nigeria’s population alone is estimated to reach around 400 million in 2050, which would make it the third most populous nation in the world.

Economically, the Nigerian market is also becoming increasingly attractive to fast food chains such as McDonald’s. Nigeria’s GDP per capita has risen exponentially, from USD$ 379.12 at the turn of the Millennium, to USD$ 2,177.99 in 2016. This is supported by GlobalData’s Emerging Markets survey, which found 46% of Nigerians agreeing that their disposable incomes were increasing. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index for 2018 also saw the country rise to 145th, up from 169th in 2017.

Additionally the McDonald’s brand would represent a significant ‘pull’ factor among consumers, being viewed as aspirational in comparison to domestic fast food providers, such as Mr Biggs. Indeed, GlobalData research found that 48% of Nigerian consumers associate the USA with high quality food and drink products, which is higher than both Europe (34%) and Nigeria itself (30%).

The biggest obstacle blocking McDonald’s and other Western fast food chains from Africa’s largest economy is a lack of adequate supply chains. Geographically, Nigeria lies too far from South Africa, Egypt or Morocco to simply expand the chain’s existing supply chains.

With rival KFC entering the Nigerian market back in 2009, McDonald’s has already forgone first mover’s advantage. If the chain continues to err on the side of caution, it risks missing out on a fast growing, lucrative market.