The Politics of Beer (And I swear I am not Drunk!)

So I am in Nairobi, Kenya downing my Tusker last year. Those in the know are aware that I am a loyalist of drinking whatever alcoholic beverage the locals consume in whatever locale I am in, in the interest of enculturation. As I am there however, I start talking to one of the locals who gives me a story about why (not that I asked) I cannot find SABMiller products in Kenya. It’s an interesting story. Turns out back in the 90s, SA Breweries (before it was SABMiller), came into the Kenyan market. At around the same time, Guiness PLC had just bought a stake in Kenyan Breweries, the brewers, which then became East African Breweries EABLL). Turns out EABL ran SAB out of town. When SAB came into town, they came with cheaper prices and a price war ensured. Despite being owned by Guiness PLC then, EABLL started a campaign on how drinking Tusker was the loyal and Kenyan thing to do as opposed to letting mad South Africans take over. SAB tried and tried but eventually they surrendered, shrugging their shoulders and stating that they were leaving Kenya because it was a hostile market. Viva Tusker, right?
Fast forward to 2012. SAB (now SABMiller) is making its way back into the Kenyan market. In February they launched Castle Lite at the Zen Garden. And more recently they have brought Stout on the market. I am in Nairobi, Kenya. Owing to the amount of time I spend here, I am now almost one of the locals. A friend invites me to the ‘it’ gig of the night last night – the launch of a cider called Snapp, courtesy of East African Breweries, majority shareholder no longer Guiness PLC but Diaggio. It’s at the Mercury Lounge at ABC Centre in Nairobi (for the South Africans reading this, think some fancy restaurant cum bar around Sandton). The well-heeled and the well-moneyed are all here so I feel a bit shabby in my Mr. Price knock-off shoes but I hope no-one notices them too much as I am wearing a Foschini dress courtesy of a friend for some birthday long gone.
And then the emcee comes on stage. I roll my eyes a little when she starts by mentioning what a lot of American women have said about being a woman. ‘Aren’t there any Africans she can quote to make it relevant to the market?’ I ask. My friend says I am just jealous because no-one quotes me. Perhaps he has a point. A little while later emcee tells us to look at the screens showing us the leadership of the company talking of the product. The Top Three of the company are two white dudes and a black guy name of Mpho something. I am a little taken aback at the South Africanness of it all in Kenya. But I am still to let my tongue hang out more. The emcee introduces the star attraction. The Snapp Girls. The Snapp Girls look really good save for their weaves. They come on stage and sing (or at least I think they thought they were singing) some song about snapping. Later on they are interviewed on the long road it took to audition to be Snapp Girls. Turns out the Snapp Girls names of Tumi, Miriam and third member name of Tahlia, Tameka, or some other such black American sounding name are South African. They and their not very nice weaves landed two nights ago and are departing this morning. Yes, I said it. EABL, the company that branded itself in the 90s as being proudly Kenyan, just got South Africans to be their brand ambassadors.
Unless EABL is not very serious, I turn to my friend and start questioning on the wisdom of this since the Snapp Girls do not stay here and cannot do much as brand ambassadors. In fact, Didier has a better chance of selling Samsung here than they do of selling their cider because at least they are on the posters. It is then I talk to one of the marketing cum public relations people for EABL. Their reasoning? Snapp is owned by Diaggio and not EABL and because they are international, they preferred to use South Africans as brand ambassadors. To which I concluded, to ribbing from my friend, that perhaps Kenyans are not international-looking enough.
And the drink? Snapp is the cider that has come into Kenya to compete with SABMiller’s Redd’s. As far as I am concerned, it tastes better than Redd’s so cheers to that.


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