What happened to our breweries?
IT is interesting to observe how some of my friends are committed to the places they work in. Collectively, we always amusedly watch how friends from BRALIRWA and EABL start looking around for each of their company’s branding at whichever venue we happen to all meet at during the weekend.
Once, a friend from ORANGE Uganda met another mutual friend of ours and proceeded to have a lively discussion about the telecom industry in the region.
Upon finding out he was from ORANGE, she promptly changed the conversation and moved to another table, where most of her colleagues from MTN Rwanda were seated. A perfect example of job commitment at all times, even after office hours, especially based on the fact that they are all passionate marketers.
It was through a recent conversation with some of these experienced and passionate marketers that I got to learn a few things regarding regional national breweries.
Of late, there have been new beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which have been introduced into the Rwandan market. Most of these are owned by international brewery corporations such as BRALIRWA, in which 75 per cent shares are owned by the Heineken Group, and East African Breweries Limited (EABL) which is owned largely by renowned global premium drinks company – Diageo Plc.
EABL owns about 80 per cent shares of Kenya Breweries and the same applies for Uganda, where 98.2 per cent is owned by the same corporation. Impressive numbers, and even more impressive is the increase in production capacity of these newly acquired breweries, such as the case of Tanzania Breweries which was taken over by SABMiller (South African Breweries) in the early 90s.
The marketers expounded more and more, until a thought occurred to me. None of these breweries are largely owned nationally. I may be one of the last people to learn about this as I was quite green about the brewery sector until then, but it was slightly disconcerting to know that the majority of shares in Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan and Tanzanian breweries are largely owned by international, not national companies.
I am aware that this is the way of business and that takeovers of national entities by huge, more experienced and wealthier conglomerates; the effects of globalization; and the potential for increased national revenue through such multi-national corporations may explain why all the majority shareholders of East African breweries are international. Still, it didn’t lessen the wistful thinking as to why the reverse couldn’t be.
In any case, it was good food for thought to know that the next time I see someone praising the taste of a particular beer, I’ll wonder if they know that it is most likely owned by a company in a distant land, and not a national one as I previously thought.
Contact email: deempyisi[at]googlemail.com