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Alcohol Sales Were on the Rocks in Africa, Then Along Came a Twist

Before the pandemic, bars and restaurants accounted for most liquor revenue on the continent. Now companies are using influencers to get consumers drinking at home.
The beer aisle at a Nakumatt Holdings supermarket in Nairobi.

The beer aisle at a Nakumatt Holdings supermarket in Nairobi.

Photographer: Riccardo Gangale/Bloomberg

When Val Nasubo wanted a drink, she did what most people in Kenya do: headed out to a bar to share a round with friends. But now the 31-year-old data analyst from Nairobi has discovered she prefers having a drink at home. “I love the comfort of fixing myself a drink after a long day at work,” she says. “I’m always searching for new cocktail recipes.”

Alcohol producers in Africa hope that Nasubo’s stay-at-home approach is part of a trend that could solve a tricky problem. The pandemic proved especially difficult for makers of drinks there. Diageo Plc has said that 75% of its alcohol revenue in Africa came from drinking establishments and restaurants before the pandemic. So when the spread of Covid-19 kept patrons away from crowded social settings, consumers didn’t readily shift to at-home drinking.