Thursday, April 10

Beer: The great equalizer

Chris Blattman has a great blog post on the dual economies that exist in developing countries, prompted by the preferred beers of Africans and non-Africans observed on a trip to Liberia:
The dichotomy reminds me how, in most developing countries, there is a dual economy—one for local goods and services where prices are extremely low, and one for luxury goods and services (nice hotels, ex-pat food, taxis) where you pay near-Western prices. It’s a perfect example of price discrimination at work.
In Monrovia, however, the schism between the two economies was, for me, unprecedented. Hotels cost either $5 or $125 a night. Meals cost either 25 cents or $35. No middle ground to be seen.
I haven't been to Monrovia, but I've looked into it and have heard this is the case. The situation was similar in Freetown, in neighboring Sierra Leone, when I was there a few years ago, at least as far as hotels were concerned. I did make extensive use of the falafel at a middle-ground restaurant near where I was staying.

But beer tears down the boundaries:
The only thing priced the same in both markets is beer--a quasi-luxury good that both locals and ex-pats enjoy and (no matter your groups' preference is for Club or Heineken) I suspect the substitutability between brands is high.
Apparently Africans go for Heineken, Westerners for the local Club. In Freetown, I would drink the local Star, and my local buddies preferred the Guinness, but this was probably more for the higher alcohol content. Incidentally, Sierra Leone was apparently the first African country to get Guinness, in 1827.

In Kenya, everyone drinks Tusker, although I have heard some claims to the effect of "white people like White Cap." Tusker Malt may also get a better reception from expats. Or if you're just looking to get drunk, Pilsner is often the best best. As an admitted beer snob, I've gotten over my aversion to canned beer and have started buying Sierra, Nairobi's micro-brew.

Blattman's post also has some serious discussion of a Stimson Center research paper on the impact of peacekeeping missions on local economies.

1 comment:

Tim said...

There's a local beer in Hawai'i that has started only selling cans - turns out it's better for the environment than (recycled as opposed to reused) glass bottles because a) they are easier (less energy intensive) to melt back to usable aluminum and b) they (supposedly) make beach clean up easier. Maui Brewing Company. The stuff's pretty good, too