Is the African Beer Market the Best Bottled Up Secret for Heineken?

Taking Heineken as the premier example of a multinational beer company with an internationally and instantly recognizable brand, it would certainly appear that the beer business is frothing with success. But, is it a short-term bubble or long-term trend?

Heineken has been in Africa for a long time since the turn of the 20th century. Heineken, along with AB InBev, Castel and Diageo, together account for nearly 90% of the African beer market worth USD 15 billion annually.

In an interview, the Heineken CEO once described Africa as “the international world’s best kept secret!” Indeed, in some African countries, a bottle of Heineken beer can cost more than in Europe, despite lower production costs. The financials of Heineken confirm that profitability in Africa is among the highest of all regions in the world. Markets such as Nigeria and Congo are among the most lucrative markets globally for Heineken.

The Heineken Lineup in Africa

What is the secret of success of Heineken in Africa? Is it the taste and brand alone? Is it the horde of ‘beer promotion girls’ in bars and restaurants literally pushing the golden nectar down the throat of willing and joyful customers? Or is it the cozy relationship with those in power?

The official line of Heineken appears that it is a combination of premium quality, brand recognition, and perhaps to a lesser extent, its corporate social responsibility (#CSR).

In a book, Dutch investigative reporter Olivier van Beemen exposed some of the unsavory intricacies in the underbelly of the beer business in a bestseller book entitled ‘Heineken in Africa: A Multinational Unleashed.’

Notwithstanding some criticisms, beer business seems to be promised for a bright future in Africa with rising discretionary income. In terms of marketing, Heineken tends to associate itself with major popular sporting events such as the European Champions League of football.

Heineken appears to be on a robust growth trajectory in Africa. In addition too its Sedibeng Brewery in South Africa, Heineken also acquired Distell in South Africa in 2022. Then, Heineken partnered with Les Brasseries du Congo (Brasco) in the Republic of Congo in 2023.

In addition, Heineken has breweries in Algeria (Tango), Burundi (Brarudi), Cote d’Ivoire (Brassivoire), Egypt (Al Ahram), Ethiopia, Namibia (Namibia Breweries), and Rwanda (Bralirwa).