Sector: Consumer Services
Country of operations: Ethiopia
Awash with success
If you think African wine production starts and ends with South Africa, think again. From its Merti Jeju vineyard, 180km southeast of the capital Addis Ababa in the Upper Awash Valley, Ethiopia’s Awash Wines has been producing fine vintages since 1956.
The region’s soil and climate allow for two harvests a year, with Awash Wines’ internationally renowned grape varieties such as Petite Sirah and Chenin Blanc, as well as the native Dodoma variety, all grown on the 517-hectare site.
In recent years, the company has transformed its ability to produce and sell those varieties. In July 2013 it was privatised, when London-based investor 8 Miles and local entrepreneur Mulugeta Tesfakiros teamed up to buy the winemaker. Since then, the company has made significant investments in equipment and marketing, as well as implementing a programme aimed at reducing costs by eliminating waste.
“The priority has been to inject the team with fresh talent and motivation at every level”
“Coming out of the privatisation phase, Awash Wines presented the typical inefficiencies that one would expect from government-run companies,” recalls Doug Agble, Partner at the company. “Putting capital, effort and human talent to work to resolve those inefficiencies has to date allowed the company to deliver impressive top-line growth and, at the same time, significantly improve its profitability. The priority has been to inject the team with fresh talent and motivation at every level of the organisation to drive the cultural change that was required.”
With a revamped product line-up of eight table wines – both red and white – the company is aiming to grow its sales further in the years ahead, both internationally and, initially, domestically.
517 hectares make up the company’s vineyard in Upper Awash Valley
“Ethiopia offers a large, somewhat urban concentrated and increasingly rich consumer market,” explains Doug. “The opportunity to reach a larger consumer base with attractive beverage products is simply immense.” Doug also has some advice for other budding entrepreneurs looking to build a business: “Persevere and focus on impeccable execution,” he recommends. “It will be worth it!”