The Interview George Chisoko
GC: Mr Molai, how does it feel to be celebrating 15 years of your company’s existence?
AM: I am excited and humbled to have travelled this journey. The anniversary, for me, is a result of years of hard work and it outlines what our role is as a Zimbabwean company. That is to create value and wealth through harnessing limitless possibilities.
GC: Could you please expand on how Savanna Tobacco, as it was known then before rebranding, came into being?
AM: The birth of this company was a culmination of a vision that was anchored on a dream to create significance within the tobacco sector and in turn create employment and value for the economy by growing and processing our own tobacco into cigarettes. We believe so strongly in the beneficiation of tobacco within Zimbabwe that when we sought and received approval from Government during the land reform, we developed and successfully launched contract farming for Zimbabwean tobacco farmers.
This was the catalyst which led to the growth in volume and quality of the national tobacco crop by over 70 000 indigenous farmers. Savanna Tobacco Company was birthed from humble beginnings of processing tobacco stems for export. We had no foreign currency or access to foreign currency to buy tobacco on the auction floors, so we focused on the one tobacco product we could access without foreign currency.
GC: It is clear Mr Molai that you started as a tobacco stem processing company and it would interest the readers to know when and why you moved into cigarette manufacturing?
AM: In 2004, Savanna Tobacco Company moved to cigarette manufacturing after having created innovative financing structures to raise foreign currency, in a market with foreign currency shortages, to procure cigarette manufacturing equipment.
This was out of the realisation that cigarette manufacturing would create more value and more employment within the economy. The Pacific brand was created, which today remains our flagship brand, and manufacturing commenced of Pacific Blue for the export market. Our success in the Zimbabwean economy was hinged on the people and we made up for what we lacked in financial capital through innovation.
GC: How does this value addition feed into the Government’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset?
AM: Savanna Tobacco was and still is in the value addition and beneficiation sector as enunciated in Zim-Asset. It is just that Savanna Tobacco started its own journey towards Zim-Asset 10 years before it was enunciated by Government, creating value in the local market which benefits our economy.
GC: Would you say that Savanna Tobacco’s journey has been easy?
AM: The journey was fraught with obstacles, from foreign currency shortages, surrender requirements of the RBZ in 2006, to the issue of counterfeiting of our cigarettes. We, however, continued to persevere in the face of adversity and look forward to the “limitless possibilities” that our country, continent and world offer.
GC: What are some of the milestones achieved over the years?
AM: The launch of Pacific Blue cigarettes in 2004, launch of our Pacific Storm brand in 2006, launch of Pegasus in 2007, the Monde Selection quality awards awarded to Pacific Storm and Blue in 2006 and in 2011. Savanna Tobacco became the first cigarette company on the continent to produce flow wrap packed cigarettes in twos, fives and 10s.
This was a revolutionary breakthrough in the industry which ensured that a smoker could have access to premium quality and hygienically packed products. In 2015, as part of Savanna Tobacco’s strategy to grow its brand portfolio, the company procured rights in RG, the Remington Gold brand, Zimbabwe’s first independent cigarette brand.
In the past year alone Savanna Tobacco has modernised the packaging of Pacific Storm, Pacific Breeze, Pacific Blue and Remington Gold Red, Blue and Green.
In our quest to ensure we live by our vision and mission statement of providing world-class brands of international quality and repute, Savanna Tobacco proudly became the first Zimbabwean company in the food and beverages sector to achieve ISO 9001 for quality; ISO 14001 certification for Environmental Management and ISO 18001 for Occupational Health and Safety.
We have now expanded our strategy to Zim-Asset Two by expanding our footprint throughout the region, and even as far as Jamaica. This gives us access to a larger market, which allows exponential growth and value creation, which ultimately will benefit the Zimbabwean economy.
GC: Now Savanna Tobacco has changed its name to Pacific Cigarette Company. What motivated the rebranding?
AM: As our company has grown it become apparent that while we called ourselves Savanna Tobacco Company, our consumers referred to us simply as Pacific, obviously after our iconic flagship brand. As a consumer facing company, I am proud to announce that the consumers spoke and we listened.
GC: And finally, Mr Molai, what does it mean to be 15 years?
AM: I must say it has been and continues to be an exciting journey for this wholly grown Zimbabwean company. With the strategy we have undertaken, I am incredibly excited about the future, where we have “limitless possibilities” for growth. I must congratulate the men and women in our team for all that has been achieved through their hard work and commitment. We celebrate 15 years today, but also eagerly await the future.
As Zimbabweans, I believe that we must continuously interrogate our processing of agricultural resources to ensure that our raw materials can reach finished form within Zimbabwe and globally. Our economy can only grow, strengthen and diversify when we raise our levels of domestic value addition, thereby providing strong national industries, employment and development for our people.
As Pacific Cigarette Company we remain committed to the well-being and long-term sustainability of Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry by producing and marketing world-class products for Zimbabwe and beyond.