SAB Ltd is to invest ZAR100m (US$14.9m) on a training programme for those working in the on-premise channel in South Africa's townships.

The brewer said yesterday (1 June) it would commit the cash over the next five years to train thousands of taverners, who work in the country's shebeen trade.

A shebeen is an informal, family-run, on-premise outlet located within or adjacent to its owner's house and is where the majority of beer in South Africa is bought and sold. Around 70% of SAB's volumes go through this channel.

The brewer, SABMiller's unit in South Africa, said the scheme was part of its black economic empowerment strategy. The training will be open to licensed shebeens, those with temporary permits or those who have applied for licences. SAB said, however, that the scheme was constrained by the pace of licensing in South Africa, which was controlled by provincial governments.

SAB managing director Tony van Kralingen said: "Progress in licensing the previously unlicensed shebeen trade has continued to be below expectations, given delays in provincial licensing legislation."

He added: "Licensing is much more than simply creating a more regulated environment; it has a profound effect on our economy. Legislation that preceded South Africa's democratic process has meant that hundreds of thousands of South Africans are working for illegal enterprises in the form of unlicensed shebeens. True economic transformation within the liquor industry will ultimately be achieved through the licensing of retailers, of which approximately 70% remain unlicensed."

SAB has found that although obtaining a licence means a shebeen owner will face paying tax, the owner's sales increase, which benefits a brewer that dominates South Africa's beer market.