Sunday, November 14, 2010

le bateau ivre, port of call: Mogadishu

I wrote about this piece about brewing beer in southern Sudan, and incidentally creating a power station and a water works and a tiny industrial working class.

Well, SAB-Miller did a scenario-planning exercise about this sort of thing and came up with some truly odd answers. In the worst-case scenario:
a market with limited access to water and high energy costs, where people would migrate from areas of water shortage or turbulent weather

their proposed solution involved installing a brewery aboard a ship, so it could sail to wherever the thirsty masses had pitched up. Interestingly, as the story was released through the Grauniad's "Guardian Professional" advertorial division, this is also something SABMiller management was willing to pay good money to tell us about. Time was when big business wanted to keep its apocalyptic fantasies secret.

(Tagged "uncategorized", but should probably be under "uncategorizable".)


Anonymous said...

Two points.

One, non-Muslim Africans are serious beer drinkers. Cheap sorghum and corn beer are the poor man's tipple; barley beer is the prestige drink of the rising middle class. This has roots that go back to precolonial times; in most countries, the colonial administration set up breweries and then taxed hell out of them.

Key point being, even in a desperately poor African country you can make a startling amount of money from a brewery. Guys who make a dollar a day will save all week; rich Ministers and warlords will throw huge potlatches with hundreds of kegs; it adds up.

Two, breweries tend to be very robust. Even in the most devastating wars, the physical plant is rarely damaged or destroyed. I've been in places like Burundi and DR Congo that went through years of LIC or outright war and siege; in no case was the brewery harmed, and rarely were the supply chains in and out of it even disrupted for long. Kinshasa got comprehensively pillaged not once but twice; in both cases the brewery was business-as-usual almost immediately thereafter.

Doug M.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right, the apocalyptic fantasies are usually kept quiet.
I once was vaguely involved with a project for a company high on the list of companies that the wibbleorati like to boycott. The relevant manager from the company told us bizarre stories of such stereotypical power crazed evil that if you read them in a Scarlett Thomas novel, say, you would think they were the ludicrous fantasies of someone who had been mainlining the ink from recycled copies of Teh Grauniad.

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