KWAL at 50

This week, Kenya Wine Agencies Ltd (KWAL) celebrated fifty years of business. At a Nairobi dinner event to mark the occasion, KWAL Managing Director, Lina Githuka, said that the company, which had been privatized four years earlier, had renovated its portfolio and improved its operation. These had resulted in volumes going up threefold and, with profits up ten times, had set the stage for a second round of privatization.

During the event, there were clips and narrations showing the history of the companywhich was established in 1969 by the Government of Kenya to bottle wines and spirits. initially, and up through the 1990s when Kenya’s economy was liberalized, KWAL had a monopoly to import leading international brands like Martell, Hennessy, Bacardi and Campari which they worked with local business owners to distribute to hotels and shops. Later in the 1980s, they opened a commercial winery and embarked in the manufacturing, process and bottling of local wines. While grapes are not easily obtainable here, they used other fruits, starting with pawpaw from Kakamega and later Pekera, and “Papaya” became the first domestically produced wine in Kenya. They later added variants based on passion fruit (Passi Flora), strawberries (Kingfisher), and apples (Woodpecker).

KWAL, under KWA Holdings E.A, is now a subsidiary of Distell, which owns 55% of the company after acquiring a 26% stake in April 2017 for Kshs 1.1 billion.  The company produces 20 brands locally including Kingfisher for the last 36 years, and through its partnership with Distell, also distribute many top international brands. The KWAL portfolio includes Yatta juices, ciders (Savanna, Hunters, Kingfisher) wines (Nederburg, Drostdy-Hof, 4th Street), Amarula, and Viceroy.

Distell reported that Kenya had a stellar year (in 2018) with volume up 32% and revenue up 27%, which was partly attributed to the impressive performance of local brands like Kibao and Hunter’s Choice. KWAL plans to open a production facility at Tatu City, near Nairobi, their first new manufacturing plant in two decades, at a cost of Kshs 3 billion to meet the demand of fast-growing brands.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization, Peter Munya, who was the chief guest at the event,  said the Government was prioritizing value addition and local content in investments and that the Cabinet had recently approved an investment policy to legally safeguard all the incentives offered to investors. He applauded the privatization process which had rejuvenated KWAL, and he hoped this would extend to the sugar sector where private companies were doing very well, unlike the Government-owned ones.

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