Obesity in South Africa

Featured Image: Fast food dominates the food court at Canal Walk Shopping Centre in Cape Town, South Africa


The rise of fatty foods and an increase in industrialized production in South Africa has led to millions of children being obese and overweight throughout the country. This was due to the opening of fast food restaurants, and the decrease in children working in factories.

McDonald’s first began opening their restaurants in South Africa in 1995, to test how people would respond to the new kinds of food and to see whether or not South Africa was a good marketplace for business. After a year of success, McDonald’s expanded to 30 different buildings in under two years. Today the company operates more than 200 restaurants across the country (Obesity: Africa’s New Crisis). This new area of growth for McDonald’s created a strong advantage over its competitors like Burger King and Wendy’s. As a result, Burger King decided to start branching out in South Africa, and built their first restaurant in Cape Town. Almost immediately,  nearly 5000 South Africans made their way to Cape Town to taste for themselves what a Whopper was.

“We did not expect the demand to be so great,” the chairman of McDonald’s  confessed later when he found that people were even sleeping on the street, waiting eagerly for their turn to buy the famous burger (Obesity: Africa’s New Crisis). The outbreak of fast food in South Africa has led to many overweight people. Some may not mind the weight, like Thando Tshabalala, one of the many who stood in line to feast on the burgers.

sa obesity“To be honest I feel rather self-conscious about my size,” Tshabalala started, “There is this saying in South Africa that if you have a one-pack belly, like a beer belly, you must have lots of money, but if you have a six-pack there is something wrong. But I know it is not really a sign of success to have a big belly.” (Obesity: Africa’s New Crisis).
Clearly to him being 5 foot 5 and weighing 238 pounds is not a bad thing, but it is obvious that he is not in the best health conditions. Tshabalala is one example of the millions of people struggling to keep their weight balanced due to the rise of fast food in South Africa.

Another factor that is playing a role in the rise of obesity in South Africa is the result of the change in lifestyles. South  Africa was once a rural country that focused on agricultural benefits, but as technology continues to advance, South Africa, too, is developing city areas that are out numbering farming.
With this overgrowing city states, children are not as physically challenged anymore, and are being more lazy than they would if they still had to work on farms everyday. The prevalence of overweight and obese children living on the African continent has surged from 4.8 percent to 6.1 percent in the last 25 year, the exact numbers rising from 5.4 million to 10.3 (10 Million African Children are now Obese or Overweight). In order to solve this problem, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for order, addressing both environmental issues affecting obesity and the economical issues. For example, WHO is planning on reducing the consumption of junk foods and drinks by increasing taxation, and making it more difficult to purchase these fatty foods. WHO believes this is one of the best ways to start reducing consumption, and they will continue to address obesity until the numbers decrease. As of now, obesity in South Africa is a major issue that needs attention and help from anyone who is willing to take the time.