News that Diageo is attempting to disentangle its operations in Tanzania from SABMiller is another indication of Africa's rising prominence in the minds of multinational brewers.

SABMiller this week confirmed that it is seeking a court injunction to block Diageo's East African Breweries Ltd from quitting a venture with SABMiller-controlled Tanzanian Breweries and investing in rival group Serengeti Breweries.

Diageo, which announced a deal with Serengeti on Monday (27 July), said the move "will form an integral part of EABL's East African supply footprint providing additional capacity to Kenya and Uganda".

It also suggests that Diageo is looking for a bigger piece of the action than it was getting as a 20% shareholder in Tanzanian Breweries.

The drinks giant is known for its dislike of minority shareholdings, which is understandable given its size.

Meanwhile, the African beer market is attracting a lot more attention from brewers as mature western markets continue to shrink and even Russia, once the newfoundland of multinational brewers, slows to a halt.

Serengeti has clearly caught Diageo's eye with its 10% rise in market share in Tanzania within the last three years. It is the second biggest brewer in the country, with a 17% beer market share today.

Net sales of Diageo's Guinnesss brand rose by 25% across Africa in the six months ended 31 December, with Nigeria, Cameroon and parts of East Africa driving growth.

Earlier this year, Diageo acquired the global brand rights to Namibian beer Windhoek and told just-drinks that it planned to expand the brand across Africa.

By the end of 2009, SABMiller expects to have opened four new breweries across Africa, in Sudan, Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania.

The group's recent Black Empowerment initiative in South Africa can also be partly viewed as a means of getting domestic retailers on-side in the face of creeping competition from Diageo and Heineken.

The two brewers are building a brewery in the country, in the Sedibeng District, to be 75%-owned by Heineken.