News / Africa

Guinea-Bissau's Lone Brewery Hopes to Tap National Pride

A worker monitors the bottling line at the Pampa beer factory in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.
A worker monitors the bottling line at the Pampa beer factory in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.

Multimedia

Audio
Julia Ritchey

Through coups, conflicts and other upheavals, one constant for many West African countries has been the presence of a national beer. After going years without one, Guinea-Bissau is now hoping to revive its own local beer tradition following the reopening of its only beer factory.

The sound of clinking bottles echoes in the humming Pampa beer factory, Guinea-Bissau's lone brewery located along a long, dusty road in the country's sleepy capital of Bissau.

The former Portuguese colony of 1.6 million people is now in the midst of a slight identity crisis when it comes to beer. Pampa resumed production in March after a long hiatus but has yet to recapture the market it once enjoyed against Portuguese competitors, as well as the highly popular seasonal drinks of cashew juice and wine. Guinea-Bissau's chief export is cashews, making it something akin to the snack nut capital of West Africa.  

Pampa's marketing director, Ben Nair Lopes da Costa, does not think they have much to worry about, though.

She says the group that is now in charge of Pampa is more stable than previous owners, the quality of the beer has improved and the factory's technicians have better experience.

History of Pampa Beer

  • 1974

    Pampa beer is founded by a group of Portuguese investors right as Guinea-Bissau declares independence

  • 1977

    Guineans buy majority share, assume ownership

  • 1996

    Pampa is privatized after financial and management difficulties

  • 1998

    Pampa is forced to shut down during Guinea-Bissau's two-year civil war

  • 2000-2006

    Pampa reopens after the war but continues to have financial problems, eventually shutting down

  • 2010

    Moroccan investors purchase Pampa in its entirety and plan to relaunch brand

  • March 2011

    Pampa resumes production

Pampa has had quite a bumpy history over the last few decades, not unlike Guinea-Bissau itself. The brand was founded by Portuguese investors just as the country gained its independence in 1974, only to be nationalized and purchased by Guineans a few years later. The company changed hands a few more times after that, before the brand had to shut down completely in 1998 when the country's economy broke down due to a two-year civil war.

Yet somehow, surviving near bankruptcy and wars, Pampa has persisted. At the end of 2010, a group of Moroccan investors under the title Holding ABC, Incorporated bought the company outright and rebooted the brand.

Inside the factory, a large copper vat contains all the ingredients that give Pampa its crisp and tangy malt flavor. Da Costa says the key to Pampa's unique, if slightly acquired flavor, is the water.

She says they use Guinea-Bissau's natural mineral water pumped from 160 meters below the ground.

According to market research, Guineans consume, on average, 15 to 20 million liters of beer annually. Pampa's target is to sell three million liters by the end of the year and 10 percent more each year after that.

In its pre-war heyday, it sold about five million liters annually.

But competition still poses challenges for the company. Portuguese import Cristal is pervasive in cafes and bars around town. And cashew wine, in season right now, is a potent and bitter fermented contender that retails on the street for less than a $1.

Da Costa says Pampa's biggest obstacle is it has to import 90 percent of its materials from abroad, including malt, sugar, bottles, caps and shipping cartons.  Da Costa adds that Cristal has a competitive advantage over Pampa because it doesn't have the problem of import taxes, as well as interruption in supply.

In fact, the malt Pampa has to import comes from Belgium by way of Portugal.  Still, Pampa's owners think Guineans will slowly come around and hope to capitalize on this thirst for a hometown brew. After all, Senegal has Flag and Gazelle, Ghanians drink Star, and Gambians can chill beachside with an icy Julbrew.

Da Costa says Guineans prefer Pampa when they try it and are very nationalistic and proud of local products. They want to support their own economy.

Guinea-Bissau's Lone Brewery Hopes to Tap National Pride
Guinea-Bissau's Lone Brewery Hopes to Tap National Pride

A visual survey of one of Bissau's popular nightclubs showed most of its patrons drinking Cristal. A waiter named Alberto says people are aware that Pampa is available again, but they still gravitate toward imported beer. Both Cristal and Pampa sell for around $1 or $1.50 depending on the spot, so the price factor just isn't that significant.

And what about Guinea-Bissau's high ranking officials and elites, will they drink a local brew over imported? When asked his preference, Guinea-Bissau's Attorney General Amine Michel Saad wrinkled his nose before diplomatically stating he's a "whiskey man."

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid