Players within Uganda’s alcohol industry have issued a stark warning to the government, asserting that the proposed Alcohol Drinks Control Bill could jeopardize over four million jobs across the value chain.
The bill, introduced by Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi, aims to regulate alcohol consumption in the country.
Jackie Tahakanizibwa, the Secretary-General for the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association (UAIA), emphasized the widespread impact of the proposed legislation. According to Tahakanizibwa, the alcohol manufacturing sector alone is responsible for creating 800,000 direct jobs, with the entire value chain supporting over four million jobs. These jobs span from factory workers and transporters to bar staff and farmers supplying raw materials.
During a meeting with the Finance Ministry, UAIA members, along with bar owners, artists, and farmers, voiced their concerns about the bill’s potential ramifications. Tahakanizibwa argued that the proposed reduction in alcohol selling hours, restricting sales to specific time slots, would significantly affect people’s incomes and, subsequently, tax contributions from the sector.
One key contention raised by stakeholders is the bill’s focus on regulated alcohol, which comprises only 35% of the market. The remaining 65%, consisting of unregulated alcohol, is not addressed in the proposed legislation, despite its significant market share. Stakeholders urged the government to redirect its regulatory focus toward the unregulated segment, expressing concerns about its potential hazards to public health.
Additionally, industry players criticized a provision in the bill requiring businesses to obtain additional licenses, contingent on their establishments being at least 400 meters away from churches, schools, hospitals, and other facilities. They argued that the short timeframe for compliance, just 12 months, poses a challenge, especially considering existing investments in current facilities.
Onapito Ekomoloit, UAIA Chairman, asserted that alcohol regulation is unnecessary, pointing out that alcohol has been a part of human history without causing any crisis. He cautioned against rushing into legislation without thorough research and public consultation.
Singer Daniel Kazibwe, also known as Raga Dee, highlighted the interconnectedness of the industry, emphasizing that reduced alcohol selling hours would not only impact bar owners but also DJs, musicians, and farmers who indirectly depend on the sector for their livelihoods.
In response, State Ministers for Industry, David Bahati, and Investment, Evelyn Anite, acknowledged the need to balance sector revenue with public health concerns. They assured stakeholders that their views would be presented to the cabinet for thorough consideration, emphasizing the legislative process and the importance of public input.
The stakeholders concluded by urging the government to withdraw the proposed bill, citing its potential adverse effects on both the well-being of the Ugandan population and the economy at large.