It’s a somewhat distant memory now, but in the early 2000s the company once known as SA Breweries (SAB) came off second best to global drinks group Diageo in a fight for control of the Kenyan beer market, in what was dubbed the "beer wars". SAB had set up shop in Kenya in 1998. When Diageo took a 53% interest in the country’s largest brewery, East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), the conflict turned ruthless. The arrival of Diageo, which owns high-profile brands like Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray, gave EABL the resources to go head-to-head with SAB’s dominant beer maker. For once, SAB had to agree to a compromise and in 2002 it and Diageo swapped their holdings in their respective Kenyan and Tanzanian operations. Diageo, headed by Ivan Menezes, ended up dominating Kenya — where it sells 90% of all liquor — and SAB had the lion’s share in Tanzania. This war marked the beginning of a rapid expansion by global liquor brands across the continent. Diageo’s move into Africa has been particula...

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