“Always remember, that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”
Those were Winston Churchill’s words, but the seven African alcohol entrepreneurs on this list can probably relate. For while most of us celebrate making money with a stiff drink, these inspiring businessmen have through a stiff drink made money.
Meet seven extremely successful African tycoons, who have built multimillion-dollar fortunes by manufacturing and distributing alcoholic beverages.
1. Said Boujbel
Tunisian businessman Said Boujbel made his fortune distributing alcoholic beverages in his home country and developing hotels. In 2006, his beverage distribution company, Societe de Production et de Distribution des Boissons SA (SPDB), partnered with Heineken NV to construct a brewery to manufacture the Heineken brand in Tunisia. The brewery commenced operations in 2008 and became a raving success. In 2018, Boujbel sold his controlling stake in the brewery to Heineken.
2. Ola Rosiji
Ola Rosiji is the chairman of Lexcel group, a Nigerian conglomerate that owns Nigeria Distilleries Limited (NDL). His late father, Ayo Rosiji, founded NDL in 1973 to import distilled spirits. After creating its own research and development department, NDL started developing its own formulation and processes for a variety of alcoholic drinks such as schnapps and gin. In 1999, NDL started manufacturing its own beverages. Today, NDL is the largest indigenous producer of wines and spirits in Nigeria. The company manufactures popular Nigerian alcoholic brands like Seaman Schnapps, Bacchus Tonic wine, Calypso Coconut Liquor, Dark sailor sum, Regal and Lords’ Dry Gin.
3. Ngugi Kiuna
Ngugi Kiuna is the founder of Maxam Ltd., an alcoholic beverage distribution company based in Nairobi. Maxam Ltd was the sole distributor for products from Heineken International BV in Kenya from 2007 till 2016. In 2016, Heineken terminated Maxam’s sole distributorship, saying the termination was aimed at deleting the exclusivity clause in the agreement to open up the distribution of its products across the region to other firms that were willing to partner with it. Maxam went to court, arguing that it had invested significantly in developing distribution infrastructure and in marketing the Heineken brand in Kenya. The court ordered Heineken to pay Maxam $17 million in damages. Today, Maxam still distributes various brands of beer, gin, rum, tequila, vodk, whisky and wines and is one of the biggest distributors of alcoholic beverages in East Africa.
4. Tabitha Karanja
In 1997, Tabitha Karanja and her husband founded Keroche Industries to produce fortified wines for low-income earning rural farmers. The company has since grown into the second largest alcoholic beverages producer in Kenya – just after Diageo-controlled East African Breweries Limited. The company produces beers, ready-to-drink vodkas, wines and spirits.
5. Humphrey Kariuki
The Kenyan billionaire is the founder of Africa Spirits, a Kenyan alcoholic beverages manufacturer. African Spirits Limited product categories include vodka, brandy and gin. Its more popular brands include Bluemoon Vodka, Legend Brandy, Furaha Brandy, Furaha Gin and Gypsy King Gin. The company has been shut down since 2019 over a series of allegations bordering on tax fraud and the smuggling of ethanol of questionable quality. Kariuki has maintained his innocence. Kariuki also has business interests in energy distribution, power and real estate.
6. Sina Gerard
The Rwandan tycoon is most popular for being the founder of Akabanga, the world-famous hot chili oil. However, his company, Sina Gerard/Ese Urwibutso, also manufactures a range of bestselling alcoholic wines and traditional beers that sell across East Africa.
7. Kwabena Adjei
Kwabena Adjei is the founder of Kasapreko Indutries, a local liquor manufacturing giant. Founded in 1989, Kasapreko is best known for Alomo Bitters – a herbal based alcoholic drink. Kasapreko also manufacturers other brands such as Ogidigidi Bitters, Opeimu Bitters and Cardinal Liqueur.