Time.com runs a section called “Money”. I’ve recently read an article there about alcohol industry hot spots in Africa (Tanzania and Nigeria) and opportunities for foreigners (U.S. fund managers) to “invest”.
Not far into the article, I started getting upset. In fact, I find the article downright ludicrous and absolutely infuriating.
I am especially appalled by how Babatunde Ojo, the portfolio manager for Harding Loevner’s $600 million Frontier Emerging Markets strategy and quoted in the article, views the well being of our childrenm when he says:
“Roughly 45% of Tanzanians are between the ages of 15 and 45, prime ages for drinking beer.”
The markets consider our children as potential markets for beer. I find it imprudent that an adult put minors in a statistic that is supposed to use the poison that alcohol is. Does he not see the danger that alcohol is to children, to Lagos, to Dar es Salaam and to Africa as a whole? Does Ojo realize what alcohol does to children’s bodies and minds; what alcohol does to children’s families and communities? To the economic and social fabric of our beautiful continent?
I am not sure whether it is just plain naivety or that his views are driven by the prospect of ruthless money making… I would assume the latter is the case because his job is profit, not sustainable development or child well being. There are so many research articles that are now ubiquitous on the internet demonstrating the harm alcohol causes to children and adults alike. The consequences of alcohol harm can be seen in communities all around Nigeria and Tanzania, and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.
So this quote is purely driven by profit interests. As the article states:
“Africa is expected to see the largest increase in the legal […] age [for alcohol consumption] population by 2018, while in western Europe and North America, the cumulative decline in beer volumes since 1998 has been between 5% and 10%, according to Rabobank Research.”
And just from those two quotes I share with you here, we can do two things:
- Piece together the interests of the alcohol industry and foreign “investors”.
- Expose what “investment” really means when the alcohol industry uses the term.
Now that they face saturated and even declining markets in the West, they want to get our children hooked on the drug that is alcohol so that they may continue to make profits at the detriment of future African generations.
Their profit interests know no limits:
- Laws are no limits – both Nigeria and Tanzania do have a national minimum legal age for on- and off-premise alcohol purchases of 18;
- Morality is no limit – it’s in the Best Interest of children to grow up free from alcohol and other drugs to become healthy, well-educated citizens;
- Their own pledges are no limits – in public health fora the alcohol industry repeatedly “promises” not to target children and youth, but in financial fora they obviously convey different thoughts.
Secondly, this case shows that the alcohol industry and their “investors” don’t really mean to invest in Africa. Nigerian Breweries Plc for instance is owned in majority by Heineken Holding NV. The Dutch Heineken is the third biggest beer producer in the world. It is predominantly Western funds investing in predominantly Western alcohol companies’ business operation in Africa – to get us all addicted to their products, taking home their profits, and leaving us with the bill for the related costs.
It is immoral to entice by advertising, sponsorship on traditional or social media these babies to take drugs such as alcohol. In most countries, it is illegal to sell alcohol to minors.
Most importantly exposing minors to alcohol is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed not only in Africa, but the rest of the world. This is due to the fact that:
Young people are especially prone to the influence of the environment around them. Therefore the attitudes of parents, friends, teachers, leisure time leaders and role models towards alcohol do affect their attitudes and behaviors. We call this social heritage. Unsafe environments, where alcohol and other drugs are present and socially accepted, even expected in the case of alcohol, increase the risk for children and young people to start to use drugs. In these kinds of environments young people are at particular risk to start using alcohol and thus expose themselves to the dangers of alcohol harm.
There should instead be many adults and youth ensuring that there are alcohol-free environments for adolescents simply because they do have a right to not grow up in enabling, safe environments.
Markets don’t know anything about child well being. And the actors of the markets do not care. They don’t care a bit about the welfare of our communities and the future of our children.
Therefore, instead of focusing on investment for Big Alcohol and growing target populations to be persuaded to take up alcohol use, let’s shift the focus to a more humane and sustainable approach.
Let’s focus on the medical, social and economic harm that alcohol causes to our children in particular and to our communities in general. These harms range from harming all organs of the body except the inner ear, stunting brain development, causing NCDs like cancer and infectious diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/ Aids.
Concentrating on brain development alone can negate all the profits that the markets and their investors are hoping to glean from alcohol sales. Research tells us that brain development is only finished at the age of 25. If the 15 year olds commence alcohol use, their brain growth is stunted and Africa will pay the price – in lost potential, productivity and other costs. They will not be able to take over and develop our Lagoses or our Dar es Salaams. Is that the kind of Africa we want?
We are already far behind other continents as it is and alcohol will only make the situation worse. We do not have to take everything that the West offers because it’s not ALL good for us and our children. So wake up! Babatunde! Don’t be misled and do NOT mislead other Africans! It is time to realize that it is not only about money but development, health and protecting our offsprings.