‘There’s Nothing Like a Guinness’ in Nigeria: The Story of Guinness in Africa

Image Credit: Chino Rocha on Unsplash

As the second biggest drinkers of Guinness worldwide, Lucy Warmington explores why the iconic pint is so popular across Africa.

If I were to ask you which countries drink the most Guinness, I doubt many would guess correctly. In first place, perhaps predictably, it’s the UK. In second place, however, it is Nigeria, with Ireland only coming in third. Although Nigeria overtook Ireland as the second largest market for Guinness worldwide in 2007, its relationship with the famous stout began long before that.

The story of Guinness begins in 1759 with Arthur Guinness, but it was his son, Arthur Guinness II, who first brought Guinness to Africa. Leaning on the colonial links and travel routes of the British Empire, Arthur’s first export of Guinness to Africa landed in Sierra Leone in 1827, before expanding the market across the continent. 

Nigeria gained independence from the British Empire in 1960 and by 1962, Ikeja, Nigeria, had become the proud home of the first ever Guinness brewery outside of the UK and Ireland. 

The Guinness produced in Nigeria (aside from being twice the price of other African beers) is slightly different from the pints you would get in Dublin. Firstly, it is bottled, not poured. Secondly, it is made from maize or sorghum, not barley. Thirdly, it has a much higher alcohol content, at 7.5%. 

Guinness infamously does not travel well, and having a higher alcohol content was one method of ensuring its preservation during the long journeys overseas. The 7.5% Guinness ‘Foreign Extra Stout’ brewed in Nigeria is a leftover of this, making it more similar to the original pint designed for exporting - the Guinness ‘West Indies Porter’. 

The African continent is the biggest source of sales for Diageo, the company that owns Guinness. 45% of these sales are Guinness. 

Today, the African continent is the biggest source of sales for Diageo, the company that owns Guinness. 45% of these sales are Guinness, perhaps as a result of the strong place it holds in African culture. ‘Guinness gives you power’ was the original advertising campaign launched by Guinness Africa, and it featured an all-African ‘action-hero’ character aptly named ‘Michael Power.’ This campaign has become so iconic that it resulted in the 2003 award-winning feature film ‘Critical Assignment,’ filmed throughout six different African countries. Leaving Michael Power and his icon-status behind, Guinness Africa’s latest campaign is ‘Black Shines Brightest,’ celebrating not only Africa’s favourite beer, but also the creativity and passion of pan-African individuals. 

Guinness Africa’s latest campaign is ‘Black Shines Brightest’. 

Campaign success aside, Guinness Nigeria engages in numerous social projects. They have provided over 500,000 people with water through their ‘Water for Life’ scheme, highlighted social change in their sponsorship of the Women’s Football League in Cameroon, and created a scholarship scheme for young school leavers to study engineering. 

Between 2020 and 2021, Guinness sales across Africa rose by 32%. With its continued rising popularity, it is clear that there really is ‘nothing like a Guinness’ in Nigeria.