Notes from Africa


In late June I traveled to four countries in Africa. First up was Kenya where I joined other SABMiller employees in a discussion with the Tax Minister at the Kenya Revenue Agency. We spent an hour talking about the effects of the current tax structure as an impediment to our business operations for both our beer and water products. This was an excellent opportunity for me to engage in unfamiliar territory on a familiar topic.

I left Kenya late on a Tuesday afternoon for a 4-hour flight to Johannesburg South Africa. This is the furthest point from family/home that I have ever been at any time in my life. I also realized that this new position already afforded me the opportunity to see and do things I likely would never have done in my career.

From Johannesburg, or Jo’burg as it is called locally, I made trips to our Africa hub office and also travelled to Mozambique and Lesotho for meetings and trade visits. Trade visit is a fancy phrase indicating that I went to grocery stores, restaurants and bars…for work, my friends, for work!!

Spending a weekend in a foreign country that is being visited for the first time can be challenging. I took advantage of this “down time” to visit Palinesberg…a wildlife reserve nestled in a very large volcanic crater which is at least 30 miles across that has the Big Five animals (elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, rhino and hippo.) Our tour group of 6 (two Americans, one Brit, one Japanese and two German) survived a 2.5 hour drive with a crazy driver at 6:30am and similar return 12 hours later. We didn’t see any lions, but plenty of the other and many zebra, warthog, gazelle etc.

Mozambique has emerged from a 20-year civil war and the capitol of Maputo shows the wear and tear of conflict. It will take years to restore the country to pre-war levels, and so much more could be done. The people of the country are welcoming their future even though uncertain it may be.

Lesotho (La-suit-o) is a country-within-a-country in that it is fully contained within South Africa. It is called the Mountain Kingdom and is ruled with a constitutional monarchy. My day-trip to Lesotho preceded my overnight flight back to London on the Fourth of July. I didn’t get a chance to celebrate the holiday in my normal fashion…wouldn’t be appropriate under the new circumstances, but I did receive an email from an English colleague wishing me a happy Independence Day. I’m fairly certain he was sincere, but one mustn’t presume in the UK!