Africa beer sales surge despite church and mosque

Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:57pm EDT
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By Ed Stoddard and Chijioke Ohuocha

JOHANNESBURG/LAGOS (Reuters) - Beer sales in Africa are surging because of economic and population growth, a trend rubbing against the grain of another demographic factor defining the region: intense religiosity.

By almost any measure, Africa is an exceptionally devout place and the major growth area for Christianity and Islam.

This should have implications for investors, especially in the fast-growing retail and beer sectors: they must navigate sacred sensitivities in areas such as marketing and factor the faithful into forecasts and demographic profiles for the continent's population of just over a billion.

Brewing executives have said they tone down their advertising campaigns in Africa, and these do tend to be conservative.

In Nigeria for example, scantily-clad women tend not to feature on billboards promoting beer brands. Instead, a man in a suit is portrayed sipping a refreshing cold lager, or more often than not the ad shows just a giant bottle and glass.

According to a 2010 report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the number of Muslims living in Sub-Saharan Africa rose 20-fold from 1900 to 234 million.

Christianity has grown at an even more blistering pace, with numbers soaring almost 70-fold over the same period of time to 470 million from just 7 million.

And in the case of Christianity, much of this growth has been concentrated in Pentecostal churches and other evangelical denominations which, like Islam, tend to frown on alcohol.   Continued...

Men chat as they drink beer at a sheeben (bar) in Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg August 8, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko