A view inside our Group from out of Africa: Charles Alexander, Area Manager for Africa and the Indian Ocean, shares what makes working for Rémy Cointreau one in its own.
My background is a mixed bag. After studying public relations and marketing in South Africa in the early ‘90s, I learned about the spirits business during my stints as a cocktail bartender in Mexico, America, Dubai, the UK, South Africa and even on cruise ships. Before joining Rémy Cointreau, I spent 12 years in London launching premium bars, cafés, restaurants and event spaces within cultural venues, such as the Royal Opera House, National Portrait Gallery and Kings Place. I returned to South Africa in 2011 to do something entirely different: launch a baby-and-toddler swim school for little ones as young as 12 weeks old.
What about Rémy Cointreau attracted you the most?
The premium portfolio, as I have always worked with premium spirits. My current role—Area Manager for Africa and the Indian Ocean—sounded incredible, as it was a whole new challenge. Rémy Cointreau decided to grow its presence in Africa, and I was lucky enough to be part of the evolution from the ground up!
How would you describe the Africa and Indian Ocean team?
We are a very tight-knit, small team. We need to ensure that we have our eyes and ears open for opportunities and that we are quick to respond. Given our size, we punch well above our weight in many markets. This boils down to our team’s proactive, entrepreneurial spirit! We are sometimes a ball of energy, but I think that, to work where we do, you probably need to be.
What does your day look like?
My days can be challenging with no uniformity, especially with long, multiple flights. Sometimes, even small boats are required, as some parts of Africa aren’t easy to get to. If I am not running around an informal market somewhere in Africa, I tend to find myself interacting with our various clients or strategizing to create and implement new ideas.
What skills do you need for this type of role?
Having relationships and working with people. You need to be able to create a network quickly, as this is key for getting your share of voice for our brands. Be entrepreneurial with a can-do attitude. In Africa, things are very rarely straight-forward, so think outside of the box to find a solution—and always remember to be patient as TIA (This is Africa!).
Do you travel often?
Africa is an amazing continent, and I consider myself very fortunate to be able to experience its beauty. As you can imagine, Africa is BIG. It is comprised of 52 separate countries (and regulations) with more than 1.2 billion people, so yes, I do get around. It is not for the faint of heart, and please don’t come to my markets wearing suede shoes.
What would you like to share about your career evolutions within Rémy Cointreau?
I have been fortunate in that my role has evolved over time. When I started, my focus was Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean—and the opportunity to look after West and Central Africa become available very quickly. However, it did require me spending four weeks in Lagos, Nigeria to prove I was the right man for the job before I was entitled to take control of this dynamic, exciting region. I now look after all of Africa, so I travel to places that most people don’t get the opportunity to see.
Favorite cocktail and why?
As I was classically trained in London in the ‘90s, so, when it comes to cocktails, I tend to be a purist. A Rémy Martin 1738 Old Fashioned is my favorite—but take your time when you make it. The perfect Old Fashioned should take between 8-12 minutes, so slow down. I’m happy to wait.
Please drink responsibly.