International Women's Day 2024

Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, first black woman in South Africa to start a microbrewery and co-organiser of the International Women's Collaboration Brew Day, on her journey in brewing.

Que: What interested you in a career in the brewing and distilling industry? 

Apiwe: From a young age I was fascinated by science and wanted a career within the science field.  My interest in the brewing industry started when I was in high school and I attended an open day at our local university in Johannesburg. At the open day the exhibitors had a can of beer, yoghurt and cheese showcasing the study of Biotechnology. My interest was on how science can be used to make products people consume and use on a daily basis. That's when I decided to enroll for BSc degree in Microbiology and Biotechnology. When I started doing research on which companies I could work for, the breweries kept coming up and fortunately I managed to join South African Breweries once I finished my studies where I trained and qualified as a brewer and brewmaster. 


Que: What were some of challenges you faced initially and how have things changed? 

Apiwe: Some of the challenges I faced initially in my journey were having some people undermine me because of my gender and colour of my skin. As I grew within the industry, I focused on showcasing my passion and skills as a brewer. I wanted the industry to remember me as a brewer, who happened to be female and happened to be black but a brewer first.  

I am at a point in my career where these don't matter as much as they used to. I believe I have proven myself within the industry as a formidable brewer and my gender and colour of my skin don't really matter as much anymore.  


Que. How has the community supported you in your journey? 

Apiwe: The brewing community has been extremely supportive of my journey, this including not only the South African industry but also African and global brewing industry. I have been very fortunate in having met people early on in my career who went out of their way to help me build a solid foundation as a brewer. Those teachings have sustained me through the years and have shaped me in becoming the brewer I am today. 

The community continues to support me and over the years I have been able to link the work I do within the beer industry to also influence other industry such as skills development, tourism, politics and more.  


Que: Tell us about a moment which you felt was significant for you in your career? 

Apiwe: I have been blessed with a number of significant moments in my career, some significant in a positive way and some not so great. The most recent for me is receiving the nomination for the Gauteng Tourism Award under the category Women in Tourism.  This for me is a huge recognition of my focus in the last year, which has been to celebrate Africa through beer and showcasing the role played by the beer industry within tourism in South Africa and throughout the African continent. 


Que: What would you say to a young woman looking to start a career in the drinks industry? 

 Apiwe: The industry has improved a lot in the last few years when it comes to diversity and inclusion. It is not longer "the boy's club" like it used to be. I would really encourage anyone wanting to join the industry as there are a lot of opportunities and growth for those willing to put in the work.  

Being a woman should not limit one on what they are able to do or able to achieve. Anything and everything is possible, "Be so good, they can't ignore you".