Local and international alcohol producers and distributors have said that they will continue to seek a solution to the ongoing stalemate between them and the Botswana government over the issue of alcohol consumption and abuse.
Following the government’s recent onslaught on the alcohol industry, which saw the alcohol levy being hiked up to 30%, alcohol producers and distributors are apparently running helter-skelter in a bid to earn government’s favour. In the latest development, the alcohol industry has promised to tone down on provocative advertising, and also engage key stakeholders in ensuring that the issue of alcohol abuse is effectively addressed.
This emerged at a recent alcohol producers and distributors indaba, held at the Cresta Lodge in Gaborone over the weekend. Speaking at the meet, Kgalagadi Breweries’ Corporate Affairs and Strategy Director, Thapelo Letsholo, said that they had taken a resolution to tone down on their advertising and ensure that alcoholic beverages are not sold to persons under the age of 18.
“BAIA aims to promote self-regulation in the production, marketing and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Our adverts will indicate that alcohol and alcoholic products should not be sold to persons under the legal drinking age, which in Botswana is 18 years. We will not depict situations where alcohol is being consumed rapidly in large quantities; or suggest physical prowess, power or strength as a result of consuming alcohol beverages. We will also not depict or include pregnant women,” he said.
To that end, he said, BAIA has adopted a code of conduct which is binding to all members, and is aimed at providing guidance for commercial communication on alcohol beverages.
Letsholo also explained that their advertising will not suggest that alcohol beverages should be consumed for potential net health benefits, have an association with violent or anti-social imagery or behavior, portray nudity or suggest that alcohol beverages can contribute directly to sexual success or seduction. Most importantly, he said, they will engage in promotions that encourage responsible consumption of alcohol.
The change of strategy by the alcohol producers and distributors comes in the wake of stringent measures introduced by the new government of Ian Khama, which effectively aim to reduce alcohol consumption among Batswana.
Following the introduction of the alcohol levy, alcohol producers and distributors saw their profits plummeting.
In a bid to seek cooperation and consultation with government, the alcohol producers and distributors last week announced the imminent launch of the Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA). This, they said, is primarily meant to form a collaborative framework aimed at complementing government‘s efforts to reduce alcohol abuse in Botswana.
Key stakeholders in the new association include Kgalagadi Breweries, Distell Botswana, Botswana Breweries, Heineken International, Namibia Breweries and Diageo.
Letsholo reaffirmed their commitment, as alcohol producers and distributors, to ensuring that irresponsible consumption of alcohol is limited.
“We are aware of the dangers posed by irresponsible consumption of alcohol, and we remain committed to working with government and other stakeholders to ensure that alcohol abuse is minimized” he said.
He reiterated the alcohol producers and distributors’ initial stance that the issue of alcohol abuse is a social problem that cannot be addressed by a single stakeholder, calling for more collaboration and team work in addressing the issue.
“The government, NGOs and the private sector cannot achieve this on their own. All stakeholders should engage in a universal effort to address the issue of alcohol abuse,” he said.
Letsholo also said that it is their firm belief that government is not necessarily against alcohol consumption, but is rather concerned about the abuse of alcohol and alcoholic products.
“To this end, we will support reasonable initiatives by the Botswana government and other key stakeholders in addressing the harms resulting from the abuse of alcohol in a strategically holistic and sustainable manner,” he said.
Letsholo went on to explain that the issue of alcohol abuse is not peculiar to Botswana, saying that BAIA has been observing what other countries have done to address the issue.
“The key strategy is research and more research. We will also continue to advocate for targeted interventions that will deliver sufficient and tangible results,” he said.
He said that they have learnt a lot from the strategies that NACA used to deal with the HIV-Aids issue.
“They engaged in thorough research, and eventually succeeded in addressing the problem. In the same context, we will research to come up with tangible and effective solutions to proactively reduce alcohol consumption,” he said.
Furthermore, he asserted that BAIA members consider themselves responsible partners of the government and people of Botswana, in pursuit of the collective goals of nation-building and creating wealth of the country. To that end, the Association has already introduced itself to all members of the Executive and the legislature, House of Chiefs, District Councils, the private sector and NGOs.
“We have started engaging these stakeholders face to face as we work together to craft new ways of curtailing alcohol abuse and its impacts on the moral and family fiber of our country,” he noted.