Church’s Chicken, a division of AFC Enterprises, announced yesterday [Tuesday] that it has signed a master franchise agreement with South African-based Steers Holdings to subfranchise the development and operation of 100 Church’s Chicken restaurants over the next five years.

The agreement allows Steers Holdings to subfranchise Church’s Chicken restaurants exclusively in 19 African countries; South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Cameroon.

The first restaurant, which is scheduled to open in South Africa by early April this year, will offer price-conscious menu items including American Southern-style fried chicken, sandwiches, and side items including Honey-Butter biscuits, jalapeno peppers, coleslaw, french fries, and mashed potatoes.

Hala Moddelmog, president of Church’s, revealed that the company has sought the possibility for franchise development in Africa for a few years: “Church’s was searching for the right franchise partner to introduce the Church’s Chicken brand to Africa.

“Steers Holdings has the proven franchising expertise and infrastructure to make Church’s a tremendous success across Africa,” he said.

Steers currently operates over 450 branded restaurant locations in South Africa, including hamburger chain Steers; pizza chain Debonairs; and seafood quick service restaurants FishAways.

Kevin Hedderwick, COO for Steers Holdings, commented on the new agreement: “We were looking to add a high-quality, branded chicken restaurant chain to expand our current portfolio. Church’s made sense for us as they have global brand recognition, a streamlined operating system, and experienced support teams.”

Last year, Church’s also signed franchise development agreements to open restaurants in Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, Jamaica, Bahamas, Aruba, Curacao, and St. Marteen. Church’s currently operates more than 1,500 franchised restaurants in the US, Puerto Rico and eight other countries. The company reported system-wide sales of around US$878.8m in 2000.