Brussels/London/Johannesburg — Sitting outside the ramshackle Vimba Tavern in Alexandra, Patrick Mashego swigs from a one-litre bottle of Carling Black Label, SA’s most popular beer. Rolled out by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) across the country this year, the larger bottles are part of a plan by the world’s biggest brewer to lure price-conscious South Africans to its mid-market beers and away from bargain rivals or home brews. AB InBev’s move marks a departure from its typical playbook of increasing margins and profits principally through higher prices and rigorous cost control, tactics honed through its close association with private equity firm 3G Capital. It is also the clearest sign yet of how AB InBev aims to conquer the rest of Africa after getting a major foothold on the continent by buying its biggest global rival SABMiller in 2016. On a continent where the average person drinks 10 litres of beer a year — compared with 75 litres in the US and 66 litres in Brazil — establi...

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