Perhaps it has something to do with its status as Rwanda’s biggest manufacturing concern. However what is refreshing is that a Rwandan company is walking the talk of EAC integration by making announcements to the effect that it will spread it wings within the region.
For those following keenly the process there are a few observations I would wish to make.
One is that so far Kenyan companies seem to have taken the lead in exploiting the economic opportunities the EAC has presented by fanning out in the region. Kenya’s leading companies such as the Nation Media Group, EABL, KCB and a host of other entities can now be described as truly East African.
Here in Rwanda responding to such opportunities has been rather slow.
Thus Bralirwa’s announcement that it will in one way or another take on the giant EABL to me seems a very refreshing prospect. Rwanda’s beverages market is witnessing structural changes.
This in itself demands that Bralirwa needs to reposition its presence. EABL wants a bigger market share of the Rwandan beer market apart from the fact that a new local manufacturer fronted by business mogul Tribert Rujigiro through has been licensed by Government.
With these dynamics, the rhythms of competition are set to be a reality within Rwanda’s beverages industry.
This is very good news for a number of reasons which I will not dwell on. What I can say is that resilience that comes with competition is what shapes up companies which survive the grueling competition that the three players are set to be involved in.
The history of the EABL is a case in point. Formerly known as Kenya Breweries Ltd (KBL) up till the mid 1990s having been established in the mid 1920s, KBL reinvented itself and later became EABL after registering resilience following a protracted beer war with South Africa’s Beer giant (SAB).
The KBL-SAB miller beer war was the most dramatic and intense oligopolistic war ever fought within corporate Kenya. This is what led to KBL’s transformation into EABL.
EABL since its transformation has not had any significant challenge to its backyard which is actually the entire East Africa.
This is what Bralirwa wants to contest as we speak. What is likely to emerge is what some refer to a ‘David and Goliath’ contest. Other people I have spoken to see the looming war in different angles.
They see it as a proxy war pitting Heineken NV against Diageo Plc. Heineken NV is the number one global premium lager brand.
The label enjoys an iconic status. Diageo on the other hand is the world’s leading premium drinks business outfit with a portfolio of leading global brands such as Smirnoff, Johnny Walker and Guinness.
Diageo was formed in 1997 from the merger of Guinness plc and Grand Metropolitan plc. The point to note is that Heineken NV and Diageo Plc are the anchor shareholders of Bralirwa S.A and EABL respectively.
Analysts are pointing to the fact that the war for supremacy for the East African beer market will be a proxy war between Bralirwa and EABL on behalf of these two global titans.
We are yet to see how EABL will direct its second war after fending off successfully an affront by South Africans in the mid 1990s.
For the post 2010 East African beer wars, Bralirwa if they survive then it will join the league of companies that are labeled as truly East African. That is a very tall but achievable order.