Namibia Breweries Aloof to Shebeen Row

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Although the Namibia Breweries limited (NBL) is the main supplier of alcohol beverages in the country, the current shebeen pandemonium has had little impact on the company. In an interview with New Era, NBL’s Corporate Affairs Manager Dixon Norval said that although the company is the only local producer of beer in Namibia, it does not supply beverages to unlicensed shebeens. However, an indirect effect is inevitable considering that shebeens, especially those in rural areas, have their own distribution networks that does not affect NBL. Though one might argue that if the end-user of the product (shebeens) is affected, it would to some degree have a negative impact on the main supplier (NB).However, Norval explained that it is currently difficult to determine the effect this problem has on his company given the seasonal nature. He said during winter, sales are likely to go down compared to summer. Norval could not reveal the difference in sales around this time of the year compared to summer times. “I am not at liberty to divulge that considering that we are listed on the stock exchange”, he said. Norval, who refused to divulge the number of licensed shebeens the company supplies drinks to, said these outlets (shebeens) fulfil an important role in servicing consumers. Since the ‘No Shebeens’ operations campaign started about a month ago, it is not known by what percentage the NBL or other wholesale suppliers’ alcohol sales have dropped. The Corporate Affairs Manager added that from a manufacturing perspective, NBL has created wealth in the country. And it exports 50 percent of its production. The industry has played a major role in the economic well-being of the country. NBL currently employs 500 workers and it is estimated that more than 100 000 people are directly or indirectly involved in, or dependent, on the industry. Though reluctant to talk about the revenue generated by the industry, he says NBL embraces its obligations as a leading corporate citizen by supporting the communities in which it operates. In light of the fights surrounding the sale of liquor at unlicensed premises by unlicensed operators, NBL is currently undertaking a survey to see how the company can assist the affected people to obtain licenses. “NBL has been involved in developing the shebeen industry for many years”, he said. Some of the initiatives, according to Norval, include the training of the liquor licensing boards shortly after their establishment in the 13 regions. Shebeen owners were also trained for business skills, the requirements of the new liquor Act and general hygiene. Acknowledging that the shebeen license application is a complicated process, the Corporate Affairs Manager said the company has similarly been actively supporting shebeen owners across the country to apply for licenses. According to Norval, all customers, including she-been owners, are important and thus the company has been involved in helping them get licenses so that they can enter the mainstream economy.