An Interview with Amos Nzeyi of Crown Beverages, Uganda’s Oldest Soft Drink Company

Amos Nzeyi shares his assessment of the economy in Uganda and talks about the ease of doing business in the country. He also presents Crown Beverages Limited, Uganda’s oldest soft drink company, and shares his plans for the future.

Interview with Amos Nzeyi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Crown Beverages Limited

Amos Nzeyi, Owner and CEO of Crown Beverages Limited

What is your assessment of the economy in Uganda?

Uganda is a gifted country. We have a good climate. We are an agriculture-based economy. We are able to feed our population. Growing food is not expensive here because of the good soil. 70% of our population work in agriculture. Therefore, we are lucky to be in Uganda. We also have tourism which is an area where we can grow as well. At the moment, it is growing, but not enough. In 2018, we had about 1.8 million people visit the country and we collected about 1.7 billion dollars. All this was with very little investment. With investment, we could even double that figure. We have a lot to offer. When you go to our national parks there are plenty of animals. We are one of the few countries that has mountain gorillas which are in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The forest is always wet even in the dry season. There are more than 600 families of gorillas there. The next growth will come from oil. We are hoping to drive our economy even higher through that sector. But agriculture will always be our biggest foreign exchange earner. We cannot feed people with oil. Oil we can export and make money from, but agriculture and tourism are the best for this country.

What is the business environment in Uganda? Is it easy to set up a business and grow here? How does the tax factor in?

We already have a lot of soft drinks so we are now looking at expanding our products into milk and orange juice.

Doing business is by far easier in Uganda compared to other countries. Winston Churchill referred to this part of Africa as beautiful. We have very good people who welcome foreigners. We have peace and security which are essential to doing business successfully. I always say that our peace is wasted. It could fetch us some good money. We are the only country in the region where you can walk around at night, women can walk with their handbags and not get robbed, and you can invest, make money, and take out money. If you brought in 5 million dollars and made a profit of another 5 million dollars, you could then take that money right out of the country and no one would stop you. This is not the case in many other countries.

Are you interested in focusing on the agriculture sector?

At the moment, I promote agriculture within my family members so that they have enough food to eat. But other than that, I am not in commercial farming. Of course, as a Ugandan, we like cattle. As a Ugandan, you must have land because you can do a lot with land to earn steady income, and you must have a few cows. You can use the milk for your family and children, etc.

What area are you looking to expand in beverages?

We already have a lot of soft drinks so we are now looking at expanding our products into milk and orange juice. Once we go to oranges, we will have to grow them as well but the soil is very good and it is easy to grow oranges here.

What are the key factors that differentiate you from other beverage companies?

We are different because we take the quality of what we produce very seriously. That is why we won the Bottler of the Year award for Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. We are number two in the entire world behind Colombia. We have a good setup with good production lines that are very modern and highly automated by the Germans. We are gaining in quality because we use good equipment. We also invest in our human resource and train our staff quite intensively to make sure we get the outcome required from them.

What is your strategy behind the bakery side?

I came into baking because there was no bread here when I came back here in 1986. Bread was being imported from Kenya. That motivated me to bake bread here in Uganda to provide that service to our people. It is being handled mostly by my children. They are well-educated and mature and will take it to a high level.

Project yourself three to five years’ time. What do you want to achieve for yourself and for the country?

Personally, I want my grandchildren to do very well in school. I want to see them grow, get married, and settle down. For the country, I pray that this current peace continues. I want to see Ugandans and politicians coming together and working together to develop our country as we have in the business community. I headed the Uganda Manufacturers’ Association for 4 years. My job was to bring them together and have one voice so that we could benefit from the leaders of this country which we did very well.

What do you want to achieve in terms of the business sector?

I want to consolidate what I have already and continue to grow. There is still a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of expansion programs. All this has occupied my time and my mind.

What is the image of Uganda that outsiders have?

Unfortunately, the peace we have comes out of the freedom we have. People talk how they want to talk. Some news people and media report negative things about Uganda. Now, they are talking about Ebola when there is no Ebola here. Outsiders do not want to come here because they think they might get sick and die. It is only in a neighboring country, it is being controlled, and our doctors have even gone there to help stop it. Those that do come here are surprised. Otherwise, the overall image of Uganda is good.


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