Yamam Gemmer – Mzansi made traditional ginger-beer


By Kagiso Bonoko



Ginger beer, or gemmere or igemere as it is known in the black communities of Mzansi, is a spring and summer ceremonial drink that is sure to be found at many events, celebrations, or gatherings.


Yamama Gemmer is a traditional homemade non-alcoholic ginger beer in a concentrate that is ready to drink. Mosibudi Makgato and her sister, Rosemary Padi, are the brains behind the Yamama Gemmer brand.


“The concept of ‘gemmer’ was inspired by our mother, who passed down the recipe to us. The name Yamama, when loosely translated from the Setswana language, means ‘My Mother’s’ came to us very easily because our mother was known to be the best gemmer brewer in the family and community. If there was more than one gemmer at a family gathering or church event, you’ll hear people say, ‘we want ‘gemere Yamama,’ – meaning they wanted our mother’s gemmer. The name Yamama Gemmer resonates well with the majority of people who’ve had the experience of a mother figure in their lives who made the best recipes in the kitchen, bringing moments of nostalgia.” Mosibudi


The sisters were both formally employed in the corporate sector when they started their business. Rosemary left her job in 2015, and Mosibudi left hers in 2016 to put more focus on the growing demand for the product.


Like any other start-up, the challenge that faced them in their early days, was the issue of capital, working capital to be exact, and it continues to be an issue.


Yamama Gemmer is manufactured in Elandsfontein, in the Kempton Park area, Gauteng province, with distributors or stockists throughout the country. It is also available online via RSA-Made, UberEATS, and various restaurants around the country.


Mosibudi and Rosemary are supported by a team of four additional women who help prepare and manufacture the ginger beer. The team had to be cut down during COVID-19 restrictions, but they are now working on an expansion strategy to help grow the team and expand the business.


Through all the hiccups and challenges, Yamama Gemmer has recently made it to the shelves of one of South Africa’s top food retail stores, Food Lovers Market. The goal is still to make Yamama Gemmer a preferred drink for every household in South Africa.” Rosaline added.


“I think there are enough opportunities available for young entrepreneurs in South Africa, the trick is to put your brand out there, look out for opportunities, and always be inquisitive. Go out and find the information and do something with that information. Unfortunately, many people tend to sit and expect information to come to them. If we had sat around and not gone out there, we wouldn’t have been part of the exhibitors at this year’s Buy Local Summit.” Mosibudi


Yamama Gemmer became a member of Proudly SA in 2016 after its founders had approached Brand SA to be part of their campaigns as an authentic South African Traditional drink manufacturer, they were then referred to Proudly SA as a relevant platform for their request.


“It’s always a great avenue to showcase our products to retail and corporate potential buyers looking to procure local brands. Efforts by Proudly SA promoting local products and brands have been beneficial for us as a brand. The association always authenticates and adds credibility to our brand.” Mosibudi


“In our experience, the government and corporate South Africa do come on board in support of young entrepreneurs, but our government seems to take the easy route of applying one solution to all entrepreneurs, almost like a cut and paste solution. Every entrepreneur is unique and should be engaged thoroughly to bring out the best in them, then you can get a tailor-made solution. On the other hand, corporates think differently and can work with individuals and their brands to groom them into what they’re meant to blossom into. There are lots of opportunities with corporate partnerships.” Mosibudi concluded.