The first rum fest in West and Central Africa will take place in Côte d’Ivoire, more specifically in Abidjan in October, with the ambition of being the largest rum bar in Africa. Meeting with its creator, Francis Boussougouth, pirate in chief, also known as Captain Shrine.
Adrien Bonetto : Can you introduce yourself, what is your background and how was the Abidjan Rhum Festival born?
Francis Boussougouth: It’s quite simply the journey of a rum enthusiast. Life is just a succession of opportunities. I have a career of nearly 25 years in Audit and IT Systems which has allowed me to work on 3 continents (America, Europe, Africa) and to visit around twenty countries. Seven years ago, with my family, we decided to go back to Africa and our choice fell on my wife origin country: Côte d’Ivoire.
I set up a company specializing in the sale of IT solutions (data collection and processing), Softconcept Africa and I worked for 3 years for a large IT editor. With the Covid, the activities have retracted. The IT editor closed all its offices in sub-Saharan Africa to keep only one representation in Morocco. I had to bounce back.
Since our installation in Côte d’Ivoire, I had noted the lack of rum references which I found easily in Europe.
The spirits market, in supermarkets in Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire, is distributed as follows: Champagne (25%), Wines (35%), Whiskey (25%), Gin (15 %) and a very small part for rums and other spirits. It’s simple, there are about ten brands of rums on offer: 50% low-end, 40% mid-range and 10% high-end. For me, a rum lover for 25 years, it was simply the desert.
I thought there was an opportunity because I shouldn’t be the only one who loves rum in such a cosmopolitan country. So I opened my online store “Captain Shrine – La Maison du Rhum Abidjan”, by offering rums that cannot be found on the market and by guaranteeing a delivery of 7 days maximum for all rum references on the planet.
Today, we offer more than 300 references of rums from more than 30-40 countries or regions of the world, with a simple rule: if you find our rums in supermarkets, we stop ordering them and we refer you to the malls. We are a specialized rum merchant and not at all a competitor of supermarkets.
We have also launched monthly tastings in companies or in private. We are a kind of rum start-up with the desire to revive the rum market in West and Central Africa. Abidjan Rhum Festival is precisely one of these actions.
AB: What is the concept?
FB: Abidjan Rhum Festival is a completely new project in Africa in partnership with a 5* hotel in Abidjan. It takes place over 2 weekends with 2 themes per type of rum:
Inauguration by the officials on 14/10 then two weekends:
– from 15 to 16/10 – Special Agricultural Rum, Cachaça and Clairin
– from 22 to 23/10 – Special Industrial Rum
The Rum Fest will have a B2B and B2C part. We are open to all: French-speaking, English-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, Spanish-speaking, etc… It is an international festival
AB: How many brands will be present?
FB: For the moment, we are in talks with about twenty brands and 7 major distributors. The objective of 10 brands present per weekend will be largely exceeded.
AB: What activities are planned?
FB: B2C tastings (Customers), B2B meetings and conferences (Distributors, Distilleries, Retail chains , Import/Export companies, etc.), B2B and B2C Master Classes, a pop-up store “Maison du Rhum Abidjan” but also a “Saturday Rum Party” evening.
B2C tastings will take place in hotel rooms and suites. One room per brand, like the famous “Rhum Society” in Paris.
Tastings and B2B conferences will take place in a hotel room, in a conventional manner. This B2B part will only take place on Saturdays .
There will be free rum tastings in prestigious places in Abidjan on a daily basis between Monday 10 and Friday 14, then between Monday 17 and Friday 21 October .
The pop-up shop will be open from 14 to 23/10. All this will be managed on a mobile application dedicated to the Rum Fest.
AB: A final word on the market in general, how is rum doing in Côte d’Ivoire and how do you see it evolving in the coming years?
FB: In Côte d’Ivoire, rum is the poor relation of spirits. Not because Ivorians don’t like rum but because they don’t know it and nobody promotes it. It is the same in all African countries. Alcohols and spirits that are based on raw materials not found in the tropics are the most sold and the most shared.
It is necessary to encourage a product of the future and for which Africans can fully appropriate the production cycle. Rum is a very good example. Today Africa is more than a billion inhabitants but 4 or 5 rum experiences with Madagascar, Cape Verde, Reunion and Mauritius.
It’s a market which is closed, and which still functions too much in the form of a monopoly. It must be open to other brands, even in small quantities. This will benefit big brands and the whole industry, anyway.
In the next 10 years, we should see an increase in rum consumption on the continent with better visibility of all international brands, but we should also see the emergence of new African distilleries, as we see today with experiences in Cameroon, Congo DR, Uganda and Kenya.
Events like the Abidjan Rhum Festival are events that should boost the development of rum on the African continent for the good of all players and especially consumers.
Abidjan Rum Festival
Weekends from 15 to 16/10 and from 22 to 23/10