On the ground in South Africa

14 Jul 2016

South Africa is a significant market for Scotch Whisky - the sixth largest by volume, with more than 50 million bottles shipped there last year.

It was therefore worthwhile to recently travel to Cape Town and Johannesburg with Sarah Dickson, SWA director of global affairs, to build up our first-hand knowledge of the market.

A recent decline in Scotch exports reflects some economic and political challenges South Africa is facing. Issues include, a downturn in GDP growth, high unemployment rates and political problems stemming from some social discontent and uncertainty around the upcoming municipal elections in August.

We spent two days at the foot of Table Mountain meeting local companies, South African-based SWA members and government officials.

We spoke with MPs from both the leading parties - the ANC and the Democratic Alliance. Their perspectives on the role of our industry as a provider of jobs, and a supplier of an aspirational product to an important market, were encouraging.

The politicians invited ideas on how we could evolve our contribution on issues, such as the national alcohol policy framework, and share our experience in tackling alcohol misuse - both of which we will gladly do.

This spirit of collaboration was repeated in Johannesburg. Here the British High Commission in Pretoria, along with the Consulate in Cape Town, must be commended for their help in arranging events and meetings with high profile Treasury and Trade Department officials, the Minister for Tourism and the Mayor of Johannesburg. Conversations held during these meetings all confirmed South Africa's position and growing potential as one of our industry's largest trade partners.

This potential - not to mention the 21 degree Celsius blazing 'winter' sunshine - reinforces our intentions to travel to South Africa and the wider African continent again to investigate the challenges and opportunities for Scotch Whisky.

Helena Mumdzjana is manager of Africa Market Access at the Scotch Whisky Association