Beware the wile of alcohol companies

We live in a world where business opportunities often lie in increasing sales of products that cause harm.

Breweries are queueing up to take advantage of the "great opportunities" presented by the untapped markets in Africa — its young consumers, a below-global average consumption, as well as a growing middle class with rising disposable income.

At a briefing in London in March, SABMiller Africa MD Mark Bowman, noting that Africans drink 9l of beer per head per year compared with a global average of 45l, expressed optimism at the potential growth.

"So, as Africa develops and levels of disposable income increase, we expect the rate of beer consumption to grow significantly.

"Additionally, we anticipate strong gross domestic product growth in Africa, which supports our optimism," Bowman was quoted as saying.

"Consumer access to affordable, formal alcohol and developing brands that tap into local pride and unlock the aspirations of the growing middle class, who are seeking more premium brands, will be the key drivers of top-line growth for our business across Africa."

SABMiller Africa is looking at luring consumers with low-cost brands — a key driver of alcohol use according to the World Health Organisation’s strategy against alcohol harm.

Diageo, the maker of Guinness beer and Johnnie Walker whisky, wants Africa to account for 20% of its sales after investing more than $1bn in the continent over the past five years, according to Bloomberg. Its CEO Ivan Menezes said in a recent interview: "I see Africa growing faster than the Diageo average, both in beer and in spirits, and the two go hand in hand."

Diageo manufactures in 16 African countries and sells its brands in 40.

"This is a very exciting market," Menezes said. "It’s got good demographics, very good economic growth and we’ve got good support from government."

These companies make large profits. What is unrecorded is the related harm.

In a report titled Alcohol marketing in Africa: not an ordinary business, Isidore Obot of the department of psychology at the University of Uyo in Nigeria, notes that alcohol was the cause of nearly 5-million deaths globally in 2010 — an increase of more than 1-million deaths recorded 10 years earlier.

"It was the leading risk factor for disease in southern sub-Saharan Africa, fifth in the East and West, and sixth in the Central African region," he notes.

Original article.

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