Alcohol marketing in Africa: not an ordinary business
Alcohol was the cause of nearly five million deaths globally in 2010, an increase of over one million deaths recorded ten years earlier. It was the leading risk factor for disease in southern sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), fifth in the East and West, and sixth in the Central African region. Several factors account for the increasing harm associated with alcohol in Africa among which are the availability of a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, rising urban populations, more disposable income to purchase alcohol, and unrestrained marketing and promotion of alcohol. Using a variety of strategies, producers of alcohol target young people and women with aspirational messages and other exhortations in an unprecedented onslaught of marketing and promotion which is increasingly being recognized as detrimental to public health and social welfare. Missing in the discussion on alcohol in most African countries is a clear understanding that alcohol marketing is not an ordinary economic activity and that the business of alcohol (an addictive substance with high potential for harm) can subvert the rights of individuals and the principles of democracy which many African societies are struggling to enthrone. This paper discusses these issues with particular attention to the harms caused by alcohol (to drinkers and non-drinkers alike), the potential for far-reaching harms to individuals and the society at large if the present scenario continues, and how these harms can be averted or minimized with the implementation of evidence-based policies.
Key words: Alcohol marketing, alcohol promotion, Africa, alcohol advertising