In beer there is freedom.
Apparently, Benjamin Franklin once said, “…in beer there is freedom…” On a recent trip to South Sudan I was reading an article in a local newspaper and it made me think of Ben’s thinking on beer. South Sudan is now free, but its people remain extremely poor – and that is a bittersweet kind of free. Sort of like having an ATM card but without having a job, except much much worse. What I read in the “Active Nation: South Sudan News”, made me think.
“We see them [local farmers] as central to the success of our business. Buying and processing crops locally, for example, can reduce transport costs, shorten supply lines, and ensure high quality materials for our breweries…. we help create jobs, incomes, and local prosperity. So there is no conflict between what is good for development and what is good for business.”
So who wrote this, in a small and obscure Juba daily? None other than Mark Bowman, Managing Director of SAB Miller (Africa), yep SAB Miller. Its one of the biggest beverage outfits on the planet. So big they are looking to close a $9 billion purchase of Australia’s Fosters in short order. So what is one of their biggest execs doing writing in a South Sudan rag? Well they have the only brewery in country – ever since they took the plunge in 2009.
When we talk about international organisations being economic engines in developing countries it does not just mean a peacekeeping mission, or an oil company. We often muse about the extractive industries and the matter of local content but there are many other types of businesses in developing countries, be they fragile or otherwise, that can have a positive effect as drivers of economic prosperity.
As we can gather from Bowman’s OpEd, its also about beer companies and farmers, as much it is the Oil and Gas guys and their widget suppliers. In fact, given how labour intensive farming is, local content development with a brewery may very well have much more impact than with those charged with getting the the Black Gold.
Did you know that SAB Millers makes beer using sorghum? Its a crop for many in South Sudan. While an ATM card (and a full account) may be wishful thinking at this stage, cash for crops is a kind of Freedom you can eat – or for that matter drink.
And for the full Ben Franklin quote, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”