Global alcohol companies in Africa

A new WHO report concludes that private companies use unethical marketing instruments


23 June 2011 - International alcohol companies misbehave in the African continent. The dominating and unethical character of alcohol marketing of these companies in African countries strengthens the urgent need to increase legislation on alcohol advertising in the African continent. That is one of the main conclusions of a new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

An independent monitoring exercise

The report is the first product of cooperation between EUCAM the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing, STAP the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy and the WHO, called MAMPA, Monitoring Alcohol Marketing in Africa. The report gives an overview of alcohol marketing practices and regulations in Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda.

Global alcohol producers misbehave in Africa

Since the alcohol market is saturated in Europe and other western countries, global alcohol producers invest more and more money into marketing the product in developing countries. Marketing practices that are seen as unacceptable in Europe are used widely in Africa by well-known players such as Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch, and Heineken. The WHO report shows that company rules of alcohol producers based in Europe are not adhered to when marketing the product in the African countries monitored.

According to most self-regulation codes in Europe and most company rules, alcohol advertisements may not be placed within 500 feet of schools (e.g. Diageo Code of Conduct) or when more than 30 percent of the expected spectators is underaged (e.g. AB InBev Code and European Self-regulation Code). Nevertheless, the WHO report shows illustrations of alcohol billboards in front of elementary schools, secondary schools, and playgrounds.

According to EU law (AVMSD 2007) and most self-regulation codes (e.g. European self-regulation code art 3.1) alcohol marketing communications should not depict images, impressions, symbols, music, characters (either real or fictitious) that primarily appeal to persons below 18 years-old. Nevertheless, global alcohol companies use cartoons to market their product on African television.

Connections between alcohol and wealth are used commonly in alcohol advertisements, e.g. Nigeria’s Star Big Life campaign markets the message that drinking Star beer is the beginning of the ‘big life’. The latter is especially disturbing when realizing that drinking alcohol is one of the indicators that predict poverty.

The full report can be found online at the website of WHO African Region.

Source: Eucam News,