Drinks industry supplanting government role in alcohol policies in Sub-Saharan Africa

December 15, 2009

A recent comparison of proposed national alcohol policies in Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, and Botswana shows that the drinks industry has assumed a significant and detrimental role in designing national alcohol policies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The policy drafts point to the alcohol industry's preferred version of a national alcohol policy, which includes letting the industry regulate its own marketing activities.

In a study published in the January issue of the journal Addiction, researchers Řystein Bakke and Dag Endal found that that alcohol policy documents from the four African countries were almost identical, and were likely based on a single source document that reflects alcohol industry interests. That source document originates from a series of initiatives in Sub-Saharan countries sponsored by multinational brewer SABMiller and the International Center on Alcohol Policies (ICAP), an alcohol industry-funded organisation.

The proposed national alcohol policies emphasise the economic benefits of the alcohol trade and the positive health impacts from alcohol consumption. Three of the drafts cite "self-regulation by the alcohol beverage industry as the most suitable way to manage marketing and promotions." All four proposed policies prescribe "active participation of all levels of the beverage alcohol industry as a key partner in the policy formulation and implementation process."

When approached for comment, SABMiller said that workshops which took place prior to the policies being drafted included significant discussion about population-based measures and references to relevant World Health Organisation (WHO) sponsored research. However, the draft policies contain few of the best-practice policy recommendations developed by independent researchers working on behalf of the WHO. They also fail to address alcohol's role in key development issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, child rights, and social and economic deprivation.

The authors observe that the timing of the policy initiative suggests that it was spurred by the 2005 WHO alcohol initiative, and may represent an attempt to establish policies in Africa before WHO recommendations have a chance to influence their content.

Authors Bakke and Endal state: "Few, if any, would accept Philip Morris as the designer of the tobacco policy for a national government. The industry's current policy proposals in several Southern African states can hardly be viewed any differently."

Explore further: Study: Regulate alcohol marketing

More information: Bakke Ř. and Endal D. Alcohol policies out of context: Drinks industry supplanting government role in alcohol policies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Addiction 2010; 105: 22-28

Related Stories

Study: Regulate alcohol marketing

May 2, 2006

The U.S. alcohol industry snares too many underage drinkers and its marketing practices should be federally regulated, a Columbia University study concludes.

Report finds extensive use of illicit alcohol

November 19, 2008

The consumption of illicit or noncommercial alcohol is widespread in many countries worldwide and contributes significantly to the global burden of disease, according to a new report released today by the International Center ...

T'is the season to be jolly?

December 28, 2008

As the party season approaches, a timely reminder of the issues surrounding the binge drinking culture are again highlighted by research into 'young people and alcohol' a team lead by Professor Christine Griffin, at the University ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.