Opportunities in East Africa

18 Aug 2014

'Watch out for the traffic' I was advised which is probably not the advice most people would expect to receive when heading off to East Africa, but Nairobi traffic is notorious for being stationary for long periods.

Still, when contemplating the queue of cars and lorries ahead, it gives you plenty time to think about the opportunities for Scotch Whisky across the region, given that as yet, other than South Africa, the story of Scotch Whisky's popularity has been focused on Asia and Latin America.

A ten day tour of Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia revealed emerging Scotch Whisky markets in countries that have seen tremendous economic growth of late with plans for further expansion and large populations where Scotch is an aspirational drink.

The opportunity may be great, but a number of challenges need to be overcome as the region suffers from high tariffs and taxes, often opaque import regulations and customs procedures and, in Ethiopia, difficulty in securing foreign exchange. Protecting consumers through recognition of Scotch Whisky as a drink made only is accordance with the Scotch Whisky Regulations is contained within Kenyan legislation, but the industry needs to work with other countries to help tackle the rise of counterfeit products.

Awareness of the story and heritage of Scotch has some way to go, but it is happening. I enjoyed a well-attended whisky tasting in Tanzania, while in Ethiopia members of the Addis Ababa Whisky Club greeted me warmly to their monthly meeting. Started just over two years ago by four enthusiasts, it now commands 40 members. Each contributes a bottle and is credited the value against the nips they consume at club meetings.  For more mainstream drinking, there are a growing number of smart bars that attract middle income and above consumers in their mid-twenties and early thirties, along with the more traditional 'grocery shops' which are in fact bars where consumers drop in to share a bottle with friends after work. 

The view of all I met, this is a region of great opportunity. 

Campbell Evans, SWA director of international affairs

Picture: Addis Ababa Whisky Club