Diageo fighting for a place in Ethiopian beverage market

Ekwunife OkoliEkwunife Okoli is Diageo‘s general manager for the African regional market. Last week Okoli was in Addis reviewing one of his regional markets. Apart from that, he was also here to lead an executive meeting for the African regional market and to conduct a strategic business review that the company does twice a year.

According to regional GM, this year they have decided to hold the strategic business review in Addis Ababa to show how important the Ethiopian market is for Diageo. A number of executives flew in from different parts of Africa and the headquarters – London – to take part in a week-long convention. Birhanu Fikade of The Reporter caught up with Okoli to discuss Diageo’s stake in Ethiopia. Excepts:  

The Reporter: You have said that one of the reason for your being here is the periodic business review, which your company will be carrying out in Ethiopia this year. So what did you gather from your reviews of the Ethiopian market?

Ekwunife Okoli: Actually, we have not completed the review process. But, in general, we have gathered that Africa is a good place to do business at this moment. At present, the African markets are solid and growing faster. We also spent some time discussing our market in Ethiopia. In a nutshell, we have a positive review of the Ethiopian market. We love the brands that we are developing, and the overall outlook of the country is very promising.

Do you have a new product line that will be coming out any time soon? It could be for Ethiopia or the African regional market as a whole?

Our primary strategy in Ethiopia is very simple: it is investing in the future. So what will be coming in Ethiopia would be more investment. As you know we bought the business in Ethiopia for 250 million dollars, and ever since we have put in some 50 million dollars worth of new investments into our Ethiopian stake. In addition to that, we have approved a substantial investment injection to increase our capacity here, and you will be seeing a lot of that in the near future. We are committed to growing our two brands in Ethiopia – Diageo and Meta beer. I am sure you have seen our investment in advertising our products. This is because we believe and are committed to grow these brands. We have also invested in Malta Guinness (a new brand of zero alcohol beer in Ethiopia) and I can assure you that there will be a number of new brands coming through in the Ethiopian market. You will also see us rolling out our investments to increase our presence outside of Addis. You will also see more investment in people. Since we acquired this business, we have employed about 100 more; at the moment we employ a total of 800 people in Ethiopia. It is not only about providing employment opportunity though, we also invest in people so that they develop their capacity. We invest heavily specially in our young staff so that they can assume the leadership role in the future. You can take me as an example; I was nurtured by Diageo to this level from a young age in my country Nigeria. Most importantly, we as a company, believes that the community that we are doing business in should feel the impact of our investment. In this regard, we are commissioning 21 water-well projects across Ethiopia. It is our corporate responsibility. But for me and my colleagues, making money for our owners while leaving a lasting footprint in the country that we invest in is the right way to do business.  Read moreMeta