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UMA, KACITA question Gov’t on Alcohol Control Bill

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Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA) and Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) have warned about the severe economic implications of Alcoholic Control Bill 2023, arguing that millions of jobs are at risk.

According to Associations, the bill is an attack on thousands of Ugandans who are employed in the alcohol sector both directly and indirectly, hence affecting over 300,000 livelihoods.

“The bill is an attack on these jobs. This includes the entire value chain manufacturers, grain farmers, Distributors, Bars, and clubs. Bars in Uganda directly employ approximately 150,000 locals not counting the chefs in the prime bars, artists, comedians, boda boda cyclists who transport people, the people who sell foodstuff near the bars during late night hours, those who sell water, and many other businesses,” said Dr Ezra Rubanda, the UMA Executive Director.

While interfacing with the Parliament’s Committee on Health and Trade that is scrutinizing the Bill, he said that the bill will also affect the whole value chain from the farmer who plants barley, rears chicken, and rears goats, to the manufacturer in the business, the employee of the factory, to the school-going child who will have no school fees.

“It would also be important to understand how politicians would hold rallies and gatherings of their constituents without any consumption of alcohol, especially around Kimezas and local village discussions.”

According to statistics from the Uganda Bar Owners Association, there are approximately 50,000 bars in the country, implying that approximately 150,000 Ugandans benefit directly from these bars, near the bars, there is one “muchomo” or “Chapati” making gentleman who makes a livelihood totaling to 150,000 Ugandans. All these might be left unemployed because of the time prohibition proposed in the bill.

Dr Rubanda said: “Regulation must be reasonable in its requirements and penalties, promote fair competition, and not place an undue burden on businesses nor stifle their ability to innovate and grow. The Bill should address the problem of illicit substances by putting in place robust provisions to regulate risk areas such as informal alcohol (native brews) which are increasingly being commercialized without being subjected to production standards or payment of taxes.”

Section 14 (1) of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023 stipulates that a licensee shall not sell an alcoholic drink or native liquor before 17:00 hours and after 22:00 hours on working days and 12:00 hours and after 00:00 hours on public holidays and weekends.

This provision, according to Allan Senyondwa, Director of Policy at UMA, the time restriction will require that manufacturers set up multiple facilities to ensure other value chain players are effectively served.

“This duplication of infrastructure will significantly raise operating expenses, including rent, utilities, maintenance, and transportation costs for the employees. Also, the economic significance of the night economy to the national treasury cannot be underestimated. The clause should be deleted,” he stated.

Dr Thadeus Musoke, the KACITA Chairman said that the fact that Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023 doesn’t apply to the manufacture of native liquor for domestic consumption or ceremonies presents a risk of increased illicit trade which is already 65% of the total alcohol consumed in Uganda.

He said the presence of illicit alcohol in the market is bound to lead to a loss of revenue for the Government and legitimate alcohol producers.

“We recommend that the Bill be reviewed and should regulate all alcohol consumption and must not exempt any category including the currently unregulated home and traditional brews (native liquor),” said Musoke.

Tom Bright Amooti, the MP for Kyaka Central County in Kyegegwa said that it is not necessary now for the Government to regulate alcohol because there are more pressing issues such as teenage pregnancies, domestic violence, etc.

Francis Mwijukye, the Buhweju County MP, asked how the bill would affect the tourism sector.

“I would want to get it clear on how the bill will discourage tourists. This would inform my mind on whether this is a good or a bad law.”

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