Whisky in Africa

20 August, 2014

The group won’t have it all its own way. “Our latest investment comes at a time when the economic prospects
across East Africa are highly promising,” says Richard Rushton, CEO of Distell Group, speaking of his company’s KES860m (R105m/£5.7m million) investment to acquire a 26% stake in KWA Holding East Africa (KHEAL), a leading spirits manufacturer, bottler and distributor in Kenya. 

Distell too says the “East African Community Common Market’s combined population” and “an economy boosted by recent energy discoveries, present exciting opportunities”. In Distell’s own words the deal is part of its “ramping up of investments in Africa”. A few months ago the company unveiled a bottling plant in Accra, Ghana. It has also secured land in Nigeria and Angola for manufacturing plants, which are scheduled to come on stream next year. Distell has a long-standing distribution partnership with KHEAL and Rushton adds that its investment was down to the company’s confidence in the Kenyan company, its staff and the people of Kenya.

The key to success

The investment in local people as part of a long-term approach is key. Carew explains: “I recommend a minimum five and preferably not fewer than 10 years. Develop people in the organisation who know and understand Africa, allowing those tasked with developing markets the time and resource to learn, because this takes time. 

“Encourage those functions within the wider organisation that service Africa to also learn about Africa. They will need to truly understand the requirements of customers, consumers and other local stakeholders, including those involved with legal, compliance and other statutory requirements.”

Author Jeffrey A Fadiman once described Africa as “the west’s commercial blind spot” but in at least a dozen or so markets this is surely no longer the case. Business thrives, opportunity abounds and risks are real. But if it a company does tailor its strategies and invests in local expertise, the greater danger may lie in not being in Africa, not that which lies within. 

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