From the editors

Big in Botswana?

  • Much cheering from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) on Scotch whisky being according the status of a Geographical Indication (GI) in Botswana. But why?

    GI status is reserved for products from a particular place with a particular character – Parma ham, Sherry and so on – and all WTO members must protect them from misuse. In other words, no fakes allowed.

    Botswana imported less than £500,000-worth of Scotch in 2014 – a pimple on an elephant’s posterior in the global context of exports of nearly £4bn. But that figure was 163% up on 2013, and there’s a lot more Scotch which crosses the border from neighbouring South Africa.

    Even so, the Botswana decision is worth talking about not for its intrinsic importance, but for its symbolic value as Scotch companies greedily eye the African continent’s emerging economies.


    Photo: NASA

    Unicef predicts the continent’s population will double over the next 35 years and, by 2030, KPMG reckons more than half of those people will be living in cities.

    Oil is bringing wealth to Nigeria and Angola, international investment is piling in and, even back in 2012, consumer spending accounted for more than 60% of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank.

    The number of middle class Africans varies according to your definition of the term – could be 350m, could be 120m out of a total of about 1bn – but it’s rising fast, and large numbers of these people are beginning to have money to spend on more than the simple necessities of living and breathing.

    For an equally large chunk of the populace, Scotch whisky is, to descend into marketing speak, a ‘highly aspirational’ product. In other words, buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker or Chivas Regal is one of the ultimate expressions of a person’s new-found and hard-won economic independence and freedom.

    That’s the size of the prize for Scotch whisky companies in Africa. And that’s why the SWA is talking up Botswana.

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