Kampala – Uganda is considering legislation to regulate bar opening times and limit sales and advertising of alcohol in a bid to cut down consumption in one of Africa’s heaviest drinking nations.
A bill has been submitted to parliament to bring in a host of restrictions and raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol, its sponsor Sarah Opendi told AFP Friday.
Many people perish every year in the East African country after consuming toxic liquor made in backstreet distilleries, but the deaths usually go unreported.
“The harmful use of alcoholic beverages causes a high burden of disease and has serious social and economic consequences on the well-being of the society including domestic violence and harm to members of the society,” said Opendi, an MP and former health minister.
“The law we want in place is for government to regulate what time people should go to bars and this should be after working hours, not someone waking up from bed early morning and going into a bar as the rest of the population are going to work,” she added.
According to World Health Organisation data published in 2018, Uganda is ranked among the top alcohol per capita consuming countries in Africa, with an estimated 9.5 litres per person over 15.
Consumer data company Statista meanwhile said that in 2018, over 60 percent of Uganda’s alcohol market was illicit, making it the largest in Africa.
In one of the most recent cases, 17 people died and scores were admitted to hospital in August after consuming toxic liquor from a roadside kiosk in the northern city of Arua.
The Alcohol Control Bill 2022 calls for regulations to license those trading in alcohol, ban sales to certain persons and to regulate the promotion and advertising of alcoholic drinks.
The bill also seeks to create public awareness about the dangers of excessive consumption “to rehabilitate, counsel and treat persons who have developed mental challenges arising from the excessive use of alcoholic drinks”.
But the proposed legislation is expected to run into opposition from breweries which pump billions of shillings into the national coffers through taxes, and create thousands of jobs in the sector and linked industries.
“The bill is brought in bad faith. You cannot put a limit on the time someone should start drinking a beer or leave the bar,” said Alfred Komakech, 37, a manager at Top Pub, a popular 24-hour spot in Kampala’s central business district.
“If parliament values the contribution of alcoholic drinks industry to the economy, they should not entertain the bill.”