JOHANNESBURG: Hundreds of coffee lovers queued early Thursday in an upmarket Johannesburg shopping centre as international chain Starbucks opened its first cafe in sub-Saharan Africa.
The US-based global brand plans to open 12 to 15 more stores in South Africa over the next two years, with a long term plan of up to 150 outlets.
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The cafe's first customers formed a long line at Starbucks' doors in the Rosebank district of the city before the opening at 7:30 am.
"We've been queueing for twelve hours, since 7:30 last night and we wanted to be the first customers at Starbucks, and we were," said 19-year-old student Mohamed Mala.
Another customer, Norma Cooper, described the arrival of the cafe as "long overdue".
"Starbucks has been one of the things missing from the South African scene," said the bank employee.
A second branch will open later this month at another shopping mall in the financial capital Johannesburg, but there are no plans to expand to other countries in the region.
Starbucks, which operates more than 22,000 cafes worldwide, has a presence in only two other African countries -- Egypt and Morocco.
A caffe latte in the stylishly-designed shop costs between 27 and 33 rand ($1.89- $2.30).
In terms of wages, a junior bank teller's hourly rate in South Africa starts from 19.28 rand while an administrative clerk starts from 17.94 rand, according to Payscale, a private salary survey firm.
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Starbucks will compete with a host of well-established locally-owned brands and independent coffee shops.
"The timing is right. We are going to offer coffee lovers a special experience," said Carlo Gonzaga, chief executive of Taste Holdings, the local partner of Starbucks Coffee Company.
Gonzaga told journalists the prices were set for the South African market and not linked to the exchange rate, which has seen the South African currency fall against the US dollar.
"We also carefully considered South African customer tastes when we developed our menu, and customers can expect local products like Rooibos tea," he said.
Some of the coffee beans are sourced from nine African countries, including Kenya and Burundi.
South Africa has the most developed economy on the continent, and several American food chains have opened doors here recently, including Burger King and Krispy Kreme Doughnut.