Despite the negative impact of the lockdown-related alcohol bans in South Africa – particularly in 2020 – beer maker South African Breweries (SAB) CEO Richard Rivett-Carnac and parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) CEO Michel Doukeris have reiterated the group’s commitment to investing in South Africa.
“We are at a pivotal moment after the last two years, but we are very confident about the way forward,” Rivett-Carnac said during a May 12 media briefing.
Rivett-Carnac and Doukeris addressed media in Johannesburg, where they emphasised the importance of continuing to grow the business across Africa, with SAB’s operations in South Africa as the base.
Both Doukeris and Rivett-Carnac are both fairly new to their roles, with Rivett-Carnac having taken office at the start of the year and Doukeris in July last year.
Rivett-Carnac said that, since their respective appointments, they had taken the opportunity to relook AB InBev’s African growth strategy through SAB.
“We see enormous opportunity in Africa,” Doukeris stated.
“South Africa fits in well with our growth strategy. There are massive opportunities across Africa,” Rivett-Carnac added.
The opportunities he referred to include the digitisation and monetising of the ecosystem within which the company operated. He suggested the rollout of digital technologies among retailers, taverns and various other supply chain stakeholders across the continent.
Rivett-Carnac also referred to AB InBev’s $4.5-billion investment that was revealed at the Africa Investor Conference in March.
About R650-million will be invested at the SAB Prospecton Brewery, in KwaZulu-Natal, to expand its facilities. This investment would generate 24 000 jobs through the full value chain, Rivett-Carnac said.
A further R270-million will go towards upgrading the SAB Ibhayi Brewery, in the Eastern Cape.
Additionally, Rivett-Carnac noted that significant investment had been committed bolstering to the local bottle-making aspect of the business.
“During the pandemic, we learned a lot of things, one of them being that the beer industry is not recession- or pandemic-proof. However, I believe we have earned our way to becoming an essential business,” Doukeris said.
He explained that, during the pandemic, the beer company’s extensive logistics networks helped other businesses survive and continue to distribute products. It also help retailers remain in business – particularly in more remote areas.
He noted that AB InBev’s strategy of buying the commodities that are needed to produce its products well in advance had protected the company – and consumers – from sudden spikes in prices on the back of rising global inflation.
“We learned how much we can have a positive impact when we use our resources. We started manufacturing alcohol gel and hand sanitiser globally to donate during the height of the pandemic.
“We also facilitated blood donations, helped implement and educate on Covid-19 protocols, helped with the building of emergency hospitals and clinics, and also helped campaign for vaccinations,” Doukeris said.