In this interview, we talk to Lucy Manning is the Regional Brewing and Quality Manager, East Africa – at AB-InBev’s Tanzania Breweries Ltd. She is a trained pest control consultant and has received training as an organoleptic taster for various food products and has received training on continuous improvement (Kaizen), consumer care management system and process management. She was awarded as one of the top two Quality Managers for Japan Tobacco International in 2004.

Describe your current role, your key responsibilities and the most critical deliverables?

My role at AB-InBev as the Regional Brewing and Quality Manager, East Africa supports Tanzania Breweries Ltd. Group of companies’ four brewing plants in Tanzania and two Nile Breweries Limited’s plants in Uganda. I coordinate regulatory compliance and quality management system activities for the brewing and quality departments in both countries.

Am also the head of Voyage Plant Optimization Food Safety Management system for East Africa, coordinate internal and second party audits for our plants and suppliers and manage relationships with our customers, consumers and regulators in the region.

Further, I support new product development activities and specification factory approval systems while also managing functional 3-year strategic plans for continuous improvement, capital investment, people development, food safety information management System GAP recovery and compliance audits.

Related to my role, I have been secretary to the manufacturing segment at the Tanzania Food & Drugs Authority (TFDA), and currently a member of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) technical committee for alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages.

I also participate in the East African Community meetings as a subject matter expert and consultant. I am a member of the International Food Safety and Quality Network (IFSQN).

Tell us briefly about your company and how it fits with your career goals.

AB-InBev is the number one beer manufacturing company in the world.  In 2015 November, AB-InBev purchased SABMiller the number two beer manufacturing company and became the majority shareholder for Tanzania Group of companies and Nile Breweries Limited in Tanzania and Uganda.  

What are the most important skill sets in achieving success in your role?

The most important skill sets in my role are technical skills, ability to understand Codex Alimentarius and ISO and national standards, leadership by example, networking skills to maintain a positive work environment and the ability to manage internal and external stakeholders and finally strategic planning to deliver results. 

What were some of your previous roles? How important were these roles in shaping your current role?

I have worked in several multinational companies including AVON as part time sales lady during my school years. I also had a stint at TCC/Japan Tobacco International and at Promasidor Pty Ltd. I then opened my own consultancy company, providing SMEs with support in designing food safety systems for third party accreditation and also worked with SGS as an independent auditor and trainer for HACCP systems.

I have grown from humble beginnings, working myself upwards from administration, supervisory duties, managing standardization of processes and continuous improvement programs in the industry, with over 15 years of experience in quality management system and food safety information management systems management.

What have been some of the key turning points in your career?

My key career turning point was when I discover KAIZEN as the means to differentiate myself.

Have you ever had a change in career direction? If so, how did you handle the change? What lessons did you derive from this change?

I have had several changes in career direction.  I enjoy change, as any change in my career has been another adventure for self-development.

I started my journey of international exposure in the cigarettes industry with Tanzania Cigarette Company Ltd, a subsidiary of RJ Reynolds, that was later purchased by Japan Tobacco International, where the senior management realized I had potential for continuous personal development.  I was placed in a talent management program where I was provided with a mentor, a Director, whom I did not have a direct reporting line, to improve my managerial skills.

When I moved to a smaller multinational company, Promasidor Pty Ltd, I worked with Managing Directors with 40 plus years of experience, gaining leadership experience in the food industry. When I join AB-InBev, I found gurus in management information systems. In a nut shell, change made me increase my personal development exponentially.

What makes your role interesting? What do you enjoy most about your role?

My role is evolving, flexible and I do not get bored. Every day I am operating in a pool of knowledge that can be constantly transferred. What I enjoy most in my work is the people I am working with; their level of work enthusiasm is contagious, and it motivates me to continuously develop myself and become a better leader.

What has been the role of mentors and family in the achievement of your professional goals?

Mentors as stated above, have played a major role in shaping my leadership style.  You are either born a great leader like say, Nelson Mandela or you can develop leadership through tacit knowledge transfer to be a great leader.

I have and I am continuously developing my leadership skills by exposing myself to great leaders in the food industry who I have had a privilege to interact with. My family is very supportive. My Mom even assisted me to take care of my child while I travelled the world so that I could maintain a worry-free state of mind and work to my maximum potential.

What challenges do you face in delivering on your current role and how have you overcome them?

My main challenge comes from within me where I try to push myself to become more efficient in my way of working. I am overcoming my challenges through on the job training and networking with internal and external mentors. 

How can young people who may aspire to a career choice like yours plan their journeys? 

The first thing young people should do is build a strong foundation of knowledge that will open up for them more career opportunities.  

What is the status of the sector in which you operate in the region and Africa and what do you think are the opportunities, challenges and market trends in the sector? 

The beverage industry in the region is stable.  However, it does experience seasonality due to changes in consumer purchasing power, as approximately 70% of our consumers depend on agriculture for their lively hood. We have loyal consumers for our products.

The opportunities for suppliers to support the industry in East Africa and within the East Africa region exists.  Just-in-time availability of raw materials, spare parts, equipment and tools supply will assist in lowering the unit cost of production and improve the industry’s competitive advantage.

How do you wind down after a hard day at work? What are your personal hobbies? How do these hobbies contribute to your personal and professional development?  

I love spending time with my family after a long day at work as it helps recharge my energy.  During my spare time I enjoy farming in my 4-acre fruit farm.  My hobbies are to travel the world, read science fiction novels and taking care of my family.

NOTE: Lucy has since left Tanzania Breweries Ltd to pursue other interests.

This story appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Food Business Africa magazine. You can read the entire magazine HERE