Kenya has been lauded for its effort in dealing with illicit brews that have hit up to 60 per cent of the local alcoholic beverages market. A new report from the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking(IARD) says the illicit and dangerous liquor market is more than double the previous estimates by the World Health Organisation.
It, however, lauded the country for the success of its collaborative efforts to deal with this menace, with Senator Keg, which is produced by East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), cited as an instance where the government, communities and regulated producers have come together to produce a safe and affordable alternative to bad alcohol.
The report published last week and featured 18 countries stated that more than $1.8 billion (Sh180 billion) was lost due to the illicit alcohol. Other African countries featured in the report include Zambia, Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.
“Illegal alcohol, particularly counterfeit and smuggled products, can erode confidence in government standards, enforcement, and in the integrity of legitimate, regulated brands,” IARD says in the report.
IARD documented the human, societal and economic cost of the production and sale of the illicit alcohol, with Kenya cited as an example of countries where people have died from taking illicit and dangerous but also a case where good practice has been established in the form of Senator Keg.
Commenting on the report, Jane Karuku, Kenya Breweries Ltd managing director said the firm is committed to producing affordable and safe brews that its customers can enjoy well aware that it will not affect their health.
She agreed with the assertion in the report by IARD that the government needs to create a regulatory environment that allows legitimate and responsible producers and retailers to thrive.
She said KBL developed Senator Keg in 2004 and many of its customers testify to its value as a healthy alternative to the unverifiable and unsafe drinks.
“The keg has a huge impact as it relies on ingredients sourced from local farmers – which creates a sustainable source of income for people across its production chain,” Karuku said.
She said the success of Keg is also dependent on the government maintaining or reducing the existing remission of excise duty on beer made from sorghum and millet. The report said alcohol produced and sold illegally outside of government regulation is the most problematic part of unrecorded alcohol. “It is untaxed, circumvents restrictions around availability, is of inconsistent quality, and, depending on the ingredients used to make it, is even potentially toxic,” says IARD.
The non-profit organisation dedicated to addressing harmful drinking and promoting responsible drinking, says that everyone needs to be involved in dealing with the unregulated market and emphasises the need for governments to crack down on bad producers and importers.
It says these objectives can only be achieved where there is an enabling regulatory framework that allows legitimate businesses to thrive and does not encourage a shadow economy.
“Partnerships between government, private sector, and civil society in a whole-of-society approach can help promote a virtuous circle of growth and health that is in everyone’s interest,” IARD said.