Alcohol manufacturers in Uganda have expressed reservations on the proposed Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill saying it is "diversionary" and "regressive."
This was during another stakeholders' meeting with the drafter of the bill, Hon Sarah Opendi (NRM, Tororo District) at Parliament on Wednesday, 01 February 2023.
The Chairperson of Uganda Alcohol Industry Association (UAIA), Onapito Ekomoloit, said the bill would only be relevant if it targeted the 65 percent of illicit and unlicensed alcohol in the market. He proposed that the title of the bill should be changed to ‘Illicit alcoholic control bill.’
“This is so because 65 percent of the alcohol consumed in Uganda is illicit and unlicensed. That is the bill that is needed,” Ekomoloit said, adding that the bill should exclude the 35 percent of alcohol that is controlled and licensed.
“You cannot bring a bill to control what is already controlled because my group [UAIA] is dealing with controlled alcohol. We are fully having production licenses by law and that is a requirement by URA,” he said. UAIA which has existed for over 20 years is an organisation that brings together alcoholic beverages manufacturers and distributors in Uganda.
Ekomoloit, who is also the director of the legal and corporate affairs at Nile Breweries Limited, said the bill in its current state is an attack on peoples’ freedom to socialise, an attack on farmers and the Treasury.
"Anything in the bill which reduces our ability to sell is an attack on the treasury; it’s an attack on jobs. This alcohol industry contributes about a trillion shillings to the economy...Alcohol should be made freely available for all adults," he said. Ekomoloit is also opposed to the proposal to limit drinking hours saying, “There is no evidence that the person who drinks in the morning is necessarily abusing alcohol.”
Juliana Kagwa, the vice chairperson of UAIA, said the bill is bad for the country’s economy.
“The alcohol industry is contributing 4.9 percent of the GDP which is above one trillion shillings in tax. We are employing people in the entire value chain which starts with farmers,” Kagwa said.
The mover of the private member’s bill, Hon Opendi said the motivation to bring this bill is derived from her experience in the communities.
“Even when I was a minister, people in Karamoja became a target of those producing illicit alcohol and whenever we went to Karamoja, there was always an outcry from the leaders to regulate alcohol in their communities,” she said.
The draft bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale, and consumption of alcohol and prohibits the sale of alcohol to specified persons such as law enforcement officers and persons below the age of 18 years. It also seeks to prohibit the sale of alcohol in passenger service vehicles and also intends to regulate the time of sale of alcohol.