KFC aims to double revenue in Africa by 2012. The colonel would be proud.

KFC this week became the latest iconic American company to make significant moves into Africa, following expansion by Coca-Cola and Walmart.

Richard B. Levine/Newscom
KFC this week became the latest iconic American company to make significant moves into Africa.

From a legendary hillside in the Appalachians, one Colonel Harland David Sanders took his chicken to the planet.

Since the seventh-grade drop out turned his service station grease pit into a 1950s rest area standard, the franchise has taken its finger lickin' goodness to more than 70 countries.

Now, KFC is looking to double its African operations to 1,200 branches, bursting into untapped countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia – places many Americans more readily free-associate with virgin rain forests and "The Gods Must Be Crazy," not interstate exit cuisine.

"Africa wasn't even on our radar screen 10 years ago, but now we see it exploding with opportunity," said David Novak, Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands Inc., which owns KFC and Pizza Hut.

America's iconic brands go big into Africa

But Kentucky's most famous acronym export is just one American haute couture icon among many that are making big moves into Africa, starting with the bubbly beverage that quenched thirsts at Okinawa before it stared down Communism: Coca-Cola.

Atlanta's most syrupy offering plans to spend $12 billion increasing African coke consumption.

"We go to every town, every village, every community, every township," a top official told Business Week.

Then there's Walmart. Earlier this fall, the world's largest public corporation bought a majority share of Massmart, the biggest retailer in Africa, with plans to bring the big box to Africa's biggest cities.

"Walmart's offer is going to spark other interest," David Shapiro of Sasfin Holdings Ltd.’s securities unit in Johannesburg, South Africa, told Bloomberg News as the buy unfolded.

Last business frontier

"It's the end of the world," Reuters' Africa Chief Matthew Tostevin told me recently in Dakar. By which he didn't mean apocalypse -- combo meals in the Motherland!? -- but that "it," Africa, remains the last place on the planet where many large corporations can grow their core product lines at the pace they enjoyed in previous decades.

Consider Coca-Cola's dilemmna: Mexicans consume, on average 665 servings of coke a year. Kenyans, just 39. Boost consumption in Africa 17-fold, and where are you gonna go next to keep your shareholders fixed on that kind of momentum? Fiji? Titan Saturn VI?

Africanizing American classics

If the whole prospect of an Africa That Runs on Dunkin' has a kind of terrifying identity-erasing dread to it for you, don't despair.

For one, local tastes have their talent for worming a way into the placard menus of chains. Ever ordered a "Navajo Taco" at a New Mexican KFC? The only two teenage Navajo boys I ever knew swore by 'em.

Second, the American invasion of Africa isn't targeting the continent's poor and vulnerable so much as its rich and gullible.

To understand, perch yourself catty corner to the Pizza Inn in Accra, Ghana, an ammonia-reeking playland whose two-for-one Tuesday's inspire store-length queues of businessmen towing their families, all looking to take advantage of the two-fer deal.

A Pizza Inn cook explained the scheme.

"They use half the ingredients to make each pizza," he told me. "Half the pepperoni, half the cheese."

RELATED: Wal-Mart’s African adventure begins. Pay attention.

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