NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 21 – Outgoing East African Breweries Limited (EABL) Managing Director Charles Ireland is already packing his bags ready to bid Kenya goodbye in the next few weeks.
Ireland will be taking over his new role at as the Diageo General Manager for Great Britain, Ireland and France starting July 28 after a three-year stint at EABL.
But even as he proceeds to take the huge position, Ireland says just like many expatriates, there will so much to remember concerning Kenya, and above all, the spirit of resilience among Kenyans will always be in his mind.
“I am amazed by the incredible drive and fortitude of the Kenyan people. There is so much about Kenya and East Africa as a whole which is quite challenging, but the spirit of Kenyans is truly fantastic. You know when I feel kind of little disheartened or get annoyed about something, I always think how one of the Kenyans in my team would respond, and this gives me an energy boost,” Ireland says.
Some of his best destinations include Golfers Paradise at Vipingo Ridge at the Coast, Maasai Mara, where he frequently went to unwind, and Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club, which is his favourite among the three destinations.
When I meet Ireland for a one-on-one interview at the EABL Headquarters, he is in a boardroom seated next to the Chairman Charles Muchene and on his extreme right is his successor Andrew Cowan.
Behind them are neatly arranged bottles of different brands of beers, sprits, whisky among others.
I get to seat directly opposite them like one ready for a job interview but the warm reception makes all the difference.
The two also keenly facing Ireland perhaps curious to hear what he has to tell me about his three years leadership at EABL and generally his stay in Kenya.
Ireland kicks off by taking me through some of his achievements and despite the challenges he is confident that he has left the EABL brand stronger.
In 2014, EABL net income rose by 40 percent from Sh6.84 billion in 2013 to Sh9.5billion. The company is yet to announce the 2015 full year results.
Some of the challenges he experienced and which remain in the East African market is the volatility which included, political instability in Burundi and South Sudan, economic challenges in Uganda and Tanzania as well as huge decline in tourism in Kenya.
During his tenure, the market saw the brewer lobby for reduction of excise duty on low end market beer, Senator Keg, which had been introduced in 2013 but later brought down in 2015.
Sales of Senator which is heavily dependent on sorghum, dipped sharply after introduction of a 50 percent excise tax in October 2013, forcing the brewer to suspend most contracts it had signed with farmers.