Africa’s biggest supermarket chain, South African-owned Shoprite, says it is considering pulling out of Nigeria.
It said it was looking at selling all “or a majority stake” of its operations in Africa’s most-populous country.
Shoprite is the latest South African retailer to look at leaving Nigeria – clothing firm Mr Price announced its exit in June, and Woolworths in 2014.
Shoprite’s decision comes at a time when Nigeria’s economy is struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Economists from the World Bank have warned that the oil-rich country could be on the brink of its worst recession since the 1980s because of “the collapse in oil prices coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Shoprite said lockdown restrictions because of coronavirus had affected its operations in 14 African countries, with sales declining by 1.4% in those markets. Its South African operations on the other hand witnessed “significant growth”.
The retailer has also been battling currency-induced inflation surges – especially in Nigeria, where it has been hit hardest.
Shoprite employs at least 2,000 people in Nigeria.
The retailer’s stores in the capital, Abuja, and the commercial hub, Lagos, became a flashpoint for outrage in 2019, following violent attacks in South Africa on other migrants from elsewhere in the continent.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (Nans) – which represents university students at campuses across the country – picketed branches of Shoprite and South African telecoms giant MTN, turning away staff and customers.
The student body demanded that all South African-owned businesses leave the West African state.