Chibuku Local Beer Is Big Business In Africa

Chibuku Local Beer Is Big Business In Africa

The slogans might be different in Eastern or Southern Africa, but chibuku – the beverage – and the loyalty of its consumers are broadly similar wherever the modern, standardized version of traditional African beer is available, according to a report in TheStar.

Brewed for millennia in villages across Africa, the opaque beer now known as chibuku is sold in 10 African countries.

Chibuku was traditionally prepared with painstaking care by rural women, toiling over smoking wood fires and steaming earthen pots. No social occasion or religious ritual was complete without it — no wedding or funeral, no prayer for rain, no tribute to the gods, the report said.

These days, busy African consumers can pick up a couple of cartons at the local liquor store on the way home from work. It comes in colorful cardboard containers and costs about $1 a liter.

In many ways, the ongoing uprooting of traditional African beer from its artisanal origins in mud-and-wattle villages parallels the larger economic and social trends now unfolding across the continent, according to TheStar. It’s happening as Africa’s people continue to migrate to the cities, to take on salaried jobs and to surround themselves with store-brought products that are more or less the same.

Brewing traditional African beer, fermented mostly from sorghum or millet, is increasingly morphing into a modern business, involving centralized breweries, stainless-steel vats, precise delivery schedules, annual corporate reports and multimedia advertising campaigns.

But the brew itself has an extremely short shelf life and a flavor and texture that are not universally loved.

“I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it,” says Bonny Ibhawoh, a professor of African history originally from Nigeria. “It remains a novelty for me.”

Chibuku is the brand name the product goes by in the 10 countries where SABMiller markets traditional African beer.

The continuing popularity and commercialization of the age-old beverage is good news for the brewing giant, now the world’s leading producer and marketer of traditional African beer.

“The market potential is absolutely massive,” said SAB Miller spokesman Richard Farnsworth. “It’s already a significant market, and it’s growing.”

The product expanded from its original markets in Zambia and Zimbabwe to include Botswana and Malawi. Its corporate ownership has changed several times.

These days, rights to the Chibuku name in much of Africa belong to SABMiller, which began in 2012 to market the product in six more countries: Ghana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda. The company is considering further expansion into Ethiopia, Namibia, Nigeria and South Sudan.

Chibuku is also available in South Africa, but the rights to the brand are owned by a local company, United National Breweries, not affiliated with SABMiller, the report said.