With the continuous rise in investment from both local and international breweries, which is creating jobs for the ever growing population and also generating revenue for the host communities and the country at large, the alcohol beverage industry is experiencing a boom period at the moment. Religion and culture still pose as the biggest threat to the expansion of the industry. In Nigeria, religion plays an important role in almost every aspect of the Nigerian society, from politics even to the entertainment industry. Individuals would rather obey their religious leaders before obeying the laws of the land. Been a predominantly Christian and Muslim country where 9 in 10 persons pledges alliance to any of the religions, there is however a high level of intolerance for the consumption of alcohol by both religions.
Over the years, Nigeria has witnessed an increase in the number of churches and other religious or cultural institutions, one would expect that this should stop the rapid increase in consumption of alcohol by her young citizens. This has however not been the case, Beer turnover in Nigeria is growing faster than its economy, the market grew by 21.8% in 2009 and its projected annual growth between 2011 and 2014 is estimated to be around 23.45%. In recent years, there has been a rise in the introduction of new alcoholic beverage in the country by existing and new corporations, this has thus made Nigeria to be in the top 20 Champagne market in the world according to World Health Organization (WHO), and also according to Euromonitor International, Nigerians spends around 41bn on Champagne annually. The increase in liberalism and a drastic reduction in religious fanatics among the youths are responsible for the boom of the alcohol beverage industry. Globalization, Information Technology (IT), women rights, emerging middle class and tourism are some of the factors that have reduced parental and religious influence amongst the youths. As religious as most Nigerian youths seem to be, there is a high level of thirst for alcohol. The average youth now appears to be free minded than the usual conservative nature of their parents. For those who were born in the 80’s, you would agree with me that most of us saw the wine bar at home as a holy altar and the taste of alcohol was as sacred as a holy grail. But today, just ask a teenager between the ages 13- 15, he/she probably knows more brands of alcohol than the numbers of chapters in the bible or Quran.
Bad transportation network, rise in inflation and increased cost of production has not deterred investors from establishing new production plants and expanding capacity in its brewing operations, the recent investment of 100 million dollars, 15 billion naira, 55 billion naira by SAB Miller, Nigerian Breweries and Guinness Nigeria plc, shows the optimism about the alcohol industry. Instead of an increase in price of products, manufacturers have been able to keep the price of their products at an affordable rate, this has contributed to strong demand and sales and increase in competition. The introduction of disposable can has also played a part because it has given consumers the liberty in consumption of alcohol.
For the outlook to continue to be positive, Stakeholders in the industry must address the health risk associated with the consumption of alcohol. There is little or no campaign for healthy drinking by manufacturers, although recently, Guinness Nigeria Plc collaborated with Lagos State Government to sanitize motor and cab drivers on healthy drinking. Guinness is however not the only brewing company, so also are cab and motor drivers not the only consumers of alcohol. A collective effort by brewing companies and proper communication to its consumers will go a long way in reducing irresponsible behaviors such as violence and damage of life and property caused by alcohol consumption. Failure to address this, can make the Nigerian government increases taxes on alcohol consumption and enact laws that will discourage her citizens from consuming alcohol.
In conclusion, the Nigerian government have to make the welfare of her citizens its priority over the revenue been accrued from the industry, lest it follows the trend of the oil industry in the country.
Written by: Kenny Osuntuyi