Ethiopia’s growing middle classes is fueling the rise in beer consumption and currently a growing number of international brewing giants are capitalizing on this emerging social trend

By Ben Panter ( |

It was the European Championship quarter finals, Wales were playing Belgium. Wales scored, the crowd went wild. I had just landed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on a student journalism award sponsored by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to investigate Ethiopia’s newly emerging brewing industry.

“Ethiopians love beer and football,” laughed Desalegn Geleta, owner of the recently opened Gibbi Lounge bar in the Gotera suburb of Addis Ababa. “They have money and they want to enjoy it.”

Desalegn is excited about the future. His dream is to open a hotel in one of the many new buildings springing up in the city. For him the biggest challenge is all the paperwork and tax.  “In this country they charge too much.” he says.

Gotera is typical of many middle class suburbs in Addis Adaba – a middle class compound containing hundreds of condominiums crammed into dozens of five story blocks. Each block looks the same – housing the same mix of retailers, butchers, grocery stores, pharmacists and phone shops. After a brief walk around I suddenly realised it’s hard to spend Birr! In Ethiopia cigarettes are cheaper than Fanta!

Today excess Birr amongst Ethiopia’s growing middle classes is fueling a rise in beer consumption and currently a growing number of international brewing giants are capitalizing on this emerging social trend. Since 2011, the national market had grown by over 20% and both the Government of Ethiopian and industry players are determined that the raw material for beer production should be grown within the country’s borders.

One of the NGO’s that has spotted this potential is Irish NGO, Gorta Self-Help-Africa (GSHA) Since 2012 Gorta  has supported thousands of Ethiopian farmers in and around Sebeta, just 12 kilometers south-west of Addis Ababa on seed production new farming methods.

ALSO READ: France’s Axereal to Build Malt Factory in Ethiopia and Boost Malt Processing

In 2015 Gorta officially announced a partnership with Diageo on ‘capacity building’ and I was the journalist selected to cover the story. However, like everything else in life – things did not go according to plan.

In the summer of 2015 the rains failed – putting instant pressure on food production in Ethiopia. Within a matter of weeks the Ethiopian Government declared that over 10.2 million people were in danger of starvation. Three days before my trip to Ethiopia my contact in Addis Ababa revealed “There are two things that you can do with barley, use it for food or malt it for beer.” I boarded my flight not knowing what to expect.

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