UPDATED: Exploring Africa's favourite beers, and why it matters: one of the oldest businesses still going strong

In many countries breweries are the oldest companies, relics of colonialism, newly found independence freedom - or tell histories

GUINNESS Ghana, one of the country’s top beverage makers recently introduced a new home-grown beverage - Guinness Africa Special - made of blended local African herbs and spices. 

The company is tapping into what is a burgeoning brew industry in Africa. 

Last year a report by Canadean, research specialists who provide analysis of international soft drink and alcoholic beverage industries, said that the African beer market is the fastest growing global beer market with an annual average growth rate of 5% between 2013 and 2017. 

This means the African beer market will outstrip growth in the Asian and Latin American markets, which are projected to witness a growth rate of 4% and 3%, respectively. South Africa was named as being by far the biggest market in Africa. 

African markets are highly consolidated and four brewers – SABMiller, Heineken, Castel and Diageo – who account for 90% of the market. However, their monopoly is being challenged by new, emerging brands who are keen to get in on the lucrative action. 

Why does beer matter? In many African countries breweries are the oldest companies, some relics of colonialism. Some are products of newly found independence freedom or experimental play by some engineers building Africa’s first infrastructure and wanting a drink! This makes so many beers a national institution, and the old favourites easier to spot. As some of the longest existing brands and products in Africa, they are an integral part of many countries’ history.

Here are some of Africa’s most popular beers and some interesting tit bits about them:

In Cameroon there is an aggressive rivalry between the two key breweries; Brasseries du Cameroun and Guinness Cameroon. Brasseries du Cameroun however tends to dominate the market share with two of their brands in particular, “33 export” and “Castel”.

The favourite beer in Cape Verde is the local Strela beer. Production started in 2006 and it is already being exported to the Gambia and has its sights set on US exports too because of the large Cape Verdean diaspora.

Owned by Heineken International, Bralima is a brewing company of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 6 breweries, founded in 1923. It is also the brewery that makes the country’s favourite beer - Primus.

Stella Lager is probably the most commonly found beer in Egypt, not to be confused with the Belgian Stella Artois, having been on the market since 1897. A traditional lager, part of the Heineken family, it falls under the Al Ahram beverages company.

Founded in 1922, St. George Beer - named after the patron saint of Ethiopia - is the most popular beer. When it entered the Ethiopia market it was courtesy of Belgian owners, followed by German owners, before it was nationalised by the military regime. Today it is brewed by BGI Ethiopia, the largest brewer in the country.

Julbrew is The Gambian favourite, brewed by Banjul Breweries Ltd.. The Gambia’s only brewery. One of the oldest companies in the country, it sells four varieties of Julbrew beer.

The beer race in Ghana is a tight one but Star Beer pips the others to the post in popularity. Star Lager was introduced onto the Ghanaian market in 1960 and is now brewed by the Guinness Ghana Breweries Group.

Tusker, the largest African beer brand in the Diageo group, is a beer brand owned by East African Breweries, and is Kenya’s most recognised brew. The company’s first beer was brewed on 15 December 1922 and the first batch was delivered to the Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. George Hurst, the company’s founder, was killed in an elephant hunting accident and in his memory, his brother Charles decided to name the first beer brewed “Tusker”. The beer has since moved regionally through to Tanzania and other countries in the African Great Lakes region, and soon began to be exported internationally.

Three Horses Beer is the national beer in Madagascar. It has been brewed by the Star Breweries of Madagascar since 1958 and has since been exported to such markets as France, Reunion Island, Comoros and Mayotte. It is colloquially called “THB”.

While local brands like “Elephant” and “Kcuhe Kuche” are home favourites, Malawi has its own Carlsberg brewery. Officially opened on 14 December 1968, Carlsberg Malawi Brewery Limited (CMBL) was the first Carlsberg brewery outside Denmark. It is available everywhere and is a real beverage staple. 

Mozambique produces two of the most awarded beers in Africa: Laurentina Clara, a pale lager, and Laurentina Preta, a dark lager. It is Mozambique’s oldest beer brand, first brewed in 1932, and is now exported to South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Phoenix Beverages is the largest brewery in Mauritius. Launched in 1963, Phoenix beer was the first beer to be brewed in the island nation and has since succeeded in charming beer lovers all over the world.

Being a former German colony, Namibia has a long history of brewing and makes pale lagers. Windhoek lager, named after the capital city, is the most familiar beer which is also one of the top four top-selling beers of the Namibia Breweries Limited which exports 60% of its production to South Africa and 22 other countries world-wide.

Nigerian Breweries Plc dominatse the country’s beer sales and have two leading brands, Star and Gulder, that are well positioned in the market. The iconic Star Beer was introduced in 1949 as Nigeria’s first indigenously brewed beer in a market dominated by imported brands.

Primus is Rwanda’s biggest beer brand and is positioned as the national beer of the country. Bralirwa, which is a part of the Heineken Group, the largest brewer and soft beverage company in Rwanda, started producing Primus beer in 1959 and it was the only beer brand produced until 1987.

Kilimanjaro is Tanzania’s best-selling beer, made by Tanzanian Breweries (SABMiller), a brewery in Dar Es Salaam.

Nile Special is one of Uganda’s most popular beers brewed at SABMiller’s Nile Breweries located in Jinja. Nile Breweries Limited was established in 1951 by a group of businessmen, associated with the Construction of the Owen Falls Dam. 

Cuca is a brand of beer manufactured by Companhia União de Cervejas de Angola (“United Beer Company of Angola”) - a monopolistic brewer boasting a 90% share of the local beer market - in Angola. Cuca beer was established in 1961, a daughter company of the Portuguese Central de Cervejas. On May 26, 1976, the Government of Angola confiscated and nationalized Cuca, after taking possession of the Commission for Restructuring the brewing industry. Angola’s market for beer today is undersupplied and Cuca has grown exponentially in the six years since privatisation.

Zambia’s main beer is Mosi Lager made by Zambian Breweries, named after the local name for Victoria Falls: Mosi Oa Tunya - meaning ?Smoke that Thunders. The motto for the beer is ?”Truly Zambian” and it truly is! It is strongly associated with sports (being a big sponsored) and in 2015 Zambian Breweries Plc was named the product of the year by the Zambia Bureau of Standards.

A light beer suited to the arid climate, Gazelle is a drink that is synonymous with Senegal since it was first brewed in 1928. It is priced significantly lower than other beers, apart from Flag, making it an easily affordable option.

*Note: Following popular calls after the article was published, three additions were made to the listing

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