By Zeenat Moorad

The world’s second-largest brewer‚ SABMiller (SAB) will begin construction of its planned 260‚000 hectolitre brewery in Namibia next month‚ the company said on Wednesday.

This will mean SABMiller‚ which has been importing beer into Namibia through Castle Brewing Namibia (CBN) for more than 20 years‚ will now be able to brew and bottle beer in Namibia‚ a coup for the London-based company.

Competition in Africa’s beer market has slowly been brewing‚ as liquor groups expand operations in emerging markets to offset the effects of declines in Europe‚ where tough economic conditions prevail.

Earlier this month‚ Dutch giant Heineken said it would build a 1.5-million-hectolitre-a-year brewery in Ethiopia.

The brewery‚ its third in Ethiopia‚ is expected to be operational by the second half of next year.

SABMiller’s Namibian brewery should be operational in 18 months‚ and the company said it will be built on a space plan to accommodate future growth.

SABMiller plans to invest in a 750ml returnable bottle packaging line and warehousing facilities. Total estimated investment is N$360m‚ the maker of Miller Lite‚ Grolsch and Peroni Nastro Azzuro said.

SABMiller’s country representative Cobus Bruwer said the company has a long history in Namibia‚ having imported beers to service the local market for more than two decades.

“The company has an estimated 22% of the local market‚ with popular brands including Castle Lager‚ Carling Black Label and Castle Lite‚” Bruwer said.

SABMiller announced the establishment of SABMiller Namibia to house its operations in Namibia in 2010.

SABMiller Namibia will be 60% owned by SABSA Holdings‚ a wholly owned subsidiary of SABMiller‚ and 40% by local Namibian partners comprising 20% Onyewu Holdings and 20% by three charitable trusts for the benefit of local communities.

SABMiller first announced in April 2010 that it planned to build a brewery in Namibia. The company put in an offer to buy 7.2 hectares of land in Okahandja‚ 70km north of Windhoek‚ and the land was subsequently transferred to SABMiller but there were delays with the rezoning of the land. The final approval for the rezoning was received in October 2011.

SAB MD Mauricio Leyva said the project had reached an important milestone.

“We are most pleased that we are now going to be moving ahead with the construction of the brewery. The local brewery will not only enable us to make more of our key brands available to consumers in the Namibian market‚ but it will also make a meaningful contribution to the Namibian economy once it is up and running‚” he said.