Africa Connected: Online umqombothi takes off

2013-10-13 14:00

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In a nation where people routinely pack up their bags and move to the nearest city in search for jobs and fortune, it is inevitable that they miss the ways of home.

This was the inspiration behind Mabunda Royals, a home-brewing company run by nephew-and-uncle team Vongani and Alex Mabunda.

Alex sought to introduce a high-end, professionally brewed umqombothi (traditional African beer) to the market, inspired while still at school by his grandmother’s recipes.

The traditional beer is central to many special occasions in African homes, such as weddings and funerals, and singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka paid homage to it in a hit song that immortalised her popularity.

Vongani oversees the day-to-day operations at Mabunda Royals, which was started in October 2011, and whose name hints at their royal blood from Limpopo.

He said getting their own website on Google’s Woza Online platform has helped grow their business and since Google is the largest search engine, it made sense partnering with them.

About 70% of their customers and inquiries come via the website. Vongani says people in urban areas normally take short cuts when preparing the beer.

“When other people make umqombothi, they buy things to try and speed up the process of fermenting, which is not the right way to do it,” he says, adding that Mabunda Royals take the full five days needed to make it and use nothing but sorghum, maize and water.

“It just tastes better,” he says.

Vongani has found that it is not only people who are hosting a function or have a special occasion that are in need of umqombothi, but “some people want it for when they are just chilling with their friends”.

Just recently, Mabunda Royals has been experimenting with ways to package the product and brand. “For now, the beer keeps fermenting and the bottle expands. So we

are trying to find a way to cut down the fermentation process and ensure the beer stays at the same level,” he said.

Once they have figured this out, Vongani says they would be on their way to becoming a distributor of umqombothi and that the beer can also be accessed by people from other cultures.

“We just want everyone to enjoy African beer.”

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