Making the national alcohol policy alive: The role of the private sector
Zambia is among the few countries that have successfully developed a National Alcohol Policy (NAP) through an inclusive multisectoral process involving the public and the private sectors and the civil society. This strategy ensures that the human-centred approach becomes the overarching response strategy in responding to alcohol related issues. In today’s article, we focus our attention on the role of the private sector using Zambia Breweries as a predominant case study.
Several commentators have noted that health policy analysis has focused largely on technical content and design, neglecting both the stakeholders and processes involved in developing and implementing policies, and taking little account of the contexts within which related decisions were made (Reich 1995; Barker 1996; Gilson & Raphaely, 2008). Policy is a product of, and constructed through, political and social processes.
Armed with this knowledge, the private sector, and Zambian Breweries in particular, ensured that it responded to the government’s invitation to participate in both the procedural and substantive processes of the policy development cycles. This was, and is, critical because the private sector provided much-needed information on sales volumes, drinking patterns and future trends in the alcohol landscape. On the flip side, this involvement provided a unique opportunity to the brewery industry to learn from other stakeholders such as civil society and GRZ on how uncomfortable they were in allowing the industry to regulate itself as it had initially conceived.
The alcohol industry has had to learn, in the spirit of ‘give and take’, that the bigger picture of national development and human preservation is more important than the profit motive. Consequently, the dream of self-regulation has been dropped, and the sector has fully bought into having the NAP as the overarching framework under-which to operate with GRZ maintaining its overall policy, regulatory and stewardship role.
In the initial phases of developing the NAP, there was suspicion from many stakeholders that the alcohol industry was going to hijack the process because of its influence and its financial muscle. On the contrary, Zambia Breweries used its global experience in policy analysis to mobilise other brewers, and worked together with GRZ to inculcate a positive philosophy of nationalism and human preservation using a human-centred approach when addressing alcohol-related issues. The private sector, led by Zambia Breweries, was able to see itself, and continues seeing itself, as a critical component of the national development ecosystem in which documented alcohol management has its space.
The policy urges the private sector to take full advantage of the public private partnership policy under the Ministry of Commerce to make a lasting positive impact on the alcohol landscape. This sector must be involved in programmes that prevent, reduce, treat and rehabilitate people and families affected by alcohol-related harm.
Producers and retailers have a special responsibility to ensure alcohol is sold in accordance with national laws and regulations – such as the Liquor Licensing Act of 2011, provisions of the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) and By-laws from Local Authorities and Chiefdoms. The NAP is one of the few policies which was approved together with its Policy Implementation Plan (PIP), a document which contains activities needed to make policy measures actionable.
Zambia Breweries buys into government programmes to create public awareness about the dangers of alcohol misuse. Educational programme: The company runs an intensive educational programme with selected schools and workplaces through which thousands of workers, school children, out-of-school youths and university students have had awareness of the dangers of alcohol abuse raised. Realising event management is becoming a key component of the entertainment sub-sector, Zambia Breweries has developed a package which it uses to train events managers on how they can effectively manage alcohol consumption during their events. Road accident injuries are not uncommon in Zambia. Drunk driving is a huge determinant of this public health issue. To reduce the prevalence of accidents influenced by alcohol misuse, Zambia Breweries and the RTSA have educated both motorists and pedestrians using different media on road safety. The company has procured and donated breathalyzers to the Agency to check drivers’ alcohol levels during their (RTSA) road patrols.
Primary Prevention of Alcohol Abuse through Skills Development, the policy describes skills development as a prevention strategy, with guidelines on how to equip Zambians, especially youth, with knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to help prevent them engaging in alcohol-related harm. Zambia Breweries has responded to this by initiating and supporting various youth programmes. Manja Pamodzi – a project which collects garbage and recycles Chibuku packs and other waste paper and plastics/bottles in selected Lusaka compounds. Apart from creating much-needed employment for the youth, keeping them away from abusing alcohol and all its associated vices, this project keeps the environment clean and prevents communicable diseases. Arguably, it is a direct implementation of the Keep Zambia Clean, Green and Healthy Campaign. In Mansa farmers are encouraged to grow more cassava for a readily available market at Zambia Breweries, where it is used for the production of Eagle beer. Children are now back in school, malnutrition has reduced and gender-based violence has reduced because people in these areas now have sustainable livelihoods through this programme.
Research and Development, the policy encourages research agencies, institutions of higher learning and the private sector to work together with the government to conduct research around alcohol alcohol-related harm. In response, every two years Zambia Breweries conducts research on the status of the Zambian beer industry. It covers the entire value The research also estimates loss of government revenue from smuggling, tax evasion and unregulated alcohol manufactured and sold in Zambia.
The private sector plays a critical role in both management and prevention of alcohol-related harm. This can be made possible when companies enshrine these ideas into their corporate social responsibility policies and corporate budgets, and execute them using a human-centred approach. In this article, we have merely scratched the surface on how the private sector, and Zambia Breweries in particular, is helping make the policy a living document.
Dr Chanda Mulimansenga is chairperson of the Zambia Breweries Sales and Marketing Compliance Committee (SMCC).