In Summary
  • So far it's a largely untapped market, with Nigerians consuming on average just nine litres (around 16 British pints) of beer a year, well below South Africans' 57 litres
  • For years, Nigerian Breweries has dominated the sector with brands including Gulder, Star and top-of-the-range Heineken.
  • The biggest constraint in the eyes of executives isn't infrastructure but erratic government policy.

LAGOS,

Gigantic billboards advertising beer now dominate the skyline of Nigeria's megacity, Lagos, signalling the escalating battle between multinational brewers for drinkers in Africa's most populous country.

So far it's a largely untapped market, with Nigerians consuming on average just nine litres (around 16 British pints) of beer a year, well below South Africans' 57 litres, according to market research firm Euromonitor.

But with more than half of Nigeria's 190 million people aged under 30 — and the population expected to grow to 410 million by 2050 — the world's biggest beer companies are looking to elbow in.

For years, Nigerian Breweries has dominated the sector with brands including Gulder, Star and top-of-the-range Heineken.

However its iron grip on the market is under threat from mega-brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.

It recently opened a new factory outside Lagos and launched Budweiser to face off against Heineken, in a fierce contest for millennial drinkers being played out across Africa.

PROMOTIONS RACE

Promotions have become an arms race among the beer companies as they host concerts, fashion weeks and boat parties to win over customers.

Restaurant and club owners say they are being courted by the beer companies with unprecedented amounts of cash.

"The big guys started noticing there was a new sheriff in town," AB InBev plant manager Tony Agah told AFP.

"It's the beer wars."

AB INBEV

Agah walks through AB InBev's new factory, the largest in West Africa, located in a lush plot of land in Ogun state earmarked for industrial development.

Green bottles of Trophy and brown bottles of Budweiser whizz by on automated production lines in a labyrinth of gleaming stainless steel.

When AFP visited it was humid — the air conditioning had yet to be installed — with a smell like sweet breakfast cereal, a side-effect of fermentation.

Page 1 of 2