Whilst I was reading this article – hailing the impending legalisation of changaa in Kenya – I noticed that the writer failed to mention what alcohol in any form does to our bodies, our household economies, our public health and our development as a nation. The only thing he cared about is the legalisation of a substance that makes people ill, distorts their way of thinking, and causes accidents and deaths of the user and innocents.
Beyond the usual problem of journalists forgetting (or ignoring?) to look at all aspects of the alcohol issue, i.e. alcohol-related harm, independent evidence on how to prevent it, I also found myself wondering:
Is this what the Kenyan entrepreneurship should be about? Making a quick buck out of the demise of others? What is the difference between the big alcohol producers and the local changaa ones? None. Both are manufacturing a product that is detrimental to our development as people. Just because the alcohol is made by smaller industry doesn’t make it a lesser danger to those who use it. The effect is the same.
Legalization of changaa brewing doesn’t make it less dangerous. For example, the alcohol that killed almost 100 people in Kenya in May 2014 was legal; it had the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) stamp on it. It was legally manufactured and legally sold. Yet the manufacturer, out of greed (my guess is the entrepreneurial mind at work?) adulterated it with methanol, a poison.
Back then the BBC reported: “Consumption of homemade brew is popular in Kenya, where many people cannot afford to buy standardised alcohol… In a move to regulate the trade in 2010 the government allowed production as long as it was commercially bottled and sold at licensed premises.”
Who is to say that the ‘legal’ changaa manufacturers will not do the same when they see their profits dwindling?
I think it is important to bear in mind the fact that historically, brews like changaa were only used during special rituals and ceremonies and not every day. It was not brewed every day nor was it adulterated and sold for profit.
Instead of singing from rooftops about legalization of changaa distilleries, the writer should be thinking of the wellbeing of the alcohol users, victims of alcohol harm and the sustainable development of our country.
The writer needs to be more concerned about the health and social welfare of the poor that he so loudly wants to ‘help’. Changaa costs money, therefore, the little that is earned will go to purchasing it. Children will become malnourished, will not be able to attend school. After all, free education isn’t free because books, uniforms and monetary contributions are expected in Primary Schools. Secondary school fees are phenomenal.
How will the country develop when hard earned money goes to ‘legal changaa’? Violence against women and children will also increase since up to 80% of all cases of gender-based violence are related to alcohol use. I would suggest to the writer do a little experiment. Calculate how much will be spent on alcohol use in a month and consider what else more constructive which that money could be used on.
We need to remember that it is counterproductive to replace one bad thing with another. We will end up in a vicious cycle of despair and poverty just because we want to support local industry. Alcohol is a drug which makes a lot of countries bleed profusely in terms of healthcare, employment opportunities lost, productivity eroded, lives lost, families broken and poverty increased and perpetuated. Let’s look at the bigger picture and tell it like it is. Legal or illegal, alcohol is an obstacle to development.