1. Introduction


Reasons why SADC states must delay, modify or avoid domesticating the FCTC



The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) which was designed to address and eradicate the growing public health challenge of the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic. The Convention entered into force on 27 February 2005 – exactly 90 days after it was approved by 40 States. Zambia ratified the WHO FCTC on August 21st, 2008.  Consequently, Zambia being a Party of this global health treaty that has been ratified by 180 countries by 2017, this SADC state is obligated to implement comprehensive tobacco control laws and regulations in order to reduce and control the threat of a tobacco epidemic, such as use of large pictorial health warnings, bans on smoking in public places and tobacco advertising or increases in tobacco taxes and prices among many regulations measures. However, after critical scrutiny, some of us find the WHO FCTC to be good but another Eurocentric and incompatible global governance tool which our tobacco Southern African Development Community (SADC) states must delay, modify or avoid to domesticate its current form for the following reasons:

2. The WHO FCTC is Eurocentric and Lacks Afrocentrism and Regional Policy Reflections

From the lenses of governance experts, the WHO FCTC is purely Eurocentric and has less or no Afrocentrism as reflects, interprets and bulldozes the entire world to act or behave based on the values, beliefs, experiences and interest of the European or Anglo-American people and states. The anti-tobacco policy measures of the WHO FCTC make more sense in Europe where, according to ‘Market Watch’ in July 2014, all the top 10 countries where people smoke the most are especially in the former Soviet Union and Balkans i.e. (1) Serbia, (2) Bulgaria, (3) Greece, (4) Russia, (5) Moldova, (6) Ukraine, (7) Slovenia, (8) Bosnia-Herzegovina, (9) Belarus, and (10) Montenegro. On the other hand, the WHO FCTC proposed regulatory measures have less or no direct applicability to African states such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique as all these countries belong to top 10 countries where people smoke the least tobacco in the world which are all in Africa.

3. The WHO FCTC, a biased global governance tool: where is the WHO FCAC or WHO FCFFC?

The WHO has warned that most Non Communicable Diseases (NDCs) such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory and heart diseases could be prevented by reducing tobacco and alcohol use, eating a healthier diet and exercising more because, 6 million people die from tobacco use and 2.5 million from harmful use of alcohol each year worldwide. According to the research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2017, worldwide obesity burden is now at more than 10% of the world’s population while obesity now kills more people worldwide than car crashes, terror attacks, and Alzheimer’s combined’. But the Western laden fast foods or alcohol industries seem highly insulated as we do not have the WHO FCFFC (Framework Convention on Fast Foods Control) or WHO FCAC (Framework Convention on Alcohol Control) to date. Hence, tobacco growing economies such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique must ensure to defend and protect their developmental, agricultural, economic and political interests/benefits by delaying, modifying or avoiding to domesticate the WHO FCTC.

4. The WHO FCTC will injure economic interests of SADC States

Generally, tobacco is a huge economic pillar and GDP determinant for Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique that boast that the cash crop is 7 times more profitable per hectare compared to maize and is 14 times more profitable per hectare than cotton. For example, the total export value of tobacco leaf from these five countries grew more than 70% from around US$960 million in 2000 to US$1.658 billion for 2011. In the year 2011, tobacco leaf was the top agricultural export for Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique while in Tanzania and Zambia, it was ranked as the 2nd and 3rd respectively.  According to the Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ), the entire tobacco value chain contributes 450, 000 direct jobs to the Zambian economy while during the 2016-2017 marketing season, an average of US$69 million was paid to Zambian tobacco farmers for the sale of green tobacco throughout the country. Therefore, SADC states must exercise strict policy patience and legislative discipline either by delaying, modifying or avoid ratifying and domesticating the WHO FCTC in its current form as their agricultural, economic, political and cultural needs, benefits and interests are far different from that of China, Balkan states or Northern American states on tobacco.

5. The FCTC runs on the old ‘modernization theory’ instead of the current concept of ‘Multiple Modernities’

It clear that the WHO FCTC is meant to be a standard global governance tool on tobacco regulation for every state on earth, coined on the Western old Rostovian ‘classical modernization theories’ which globalizes the problem and effects of tobacco and prescribes ‘a one size fits all solution’. This WHO FCTC monopolized approach to world problems and homogenous solutions to policy issues affecting mother earth is technically incompatible, scientifically disapproved and has now been replaced  by Noah Eisenstaedt’s development theory of ‘Multiple Modernities’.  According to Eisenstadt,   ‘the classical theories of modernization of the 1950s wrongly assumed that the cultural program of modernity as it developed in Europe would ultimately take over in all modernizing societies and throughout the world because the actual developments in modernizing societies have refuted the homogenizing and hegemonic assumptions of this Western program of modernity’.  According to this theory, there is a Japanese, Chinese, French, British, Indian, Brazilian, Australian, Russian, Cuban, Malaysian, Egyptian, Spanish, Portuguese, Nigeria, Swedish, Zambian or Mexican unique path to modernization. Based on aforesaid, it means that SADC states whose economies are thriving on tobacco are supposed to identify and prescribe their own unique path to tobacco control which is totally different from Europe, North America or Australia.

6. The WHO FCTC also violates the scientific stages of economic growth for SADC states

The FCTC violates the global theory of societal economic growth of Walt Whitman Rostow who argues that development occurs in five (5) basic stages at different decades of time in all human societies i.e. traditional society, pre take off stage, take off stage, drive to maturity and high mass consumption stage.  Therefore, tobacco producing countries which are all either Traditional, Pre-Take Off or Take-Off societies (developing states in Africa, Asia or Latin America), cannot be compelled to effect the WHO FCTC like tobacco smoking countries which are mainly Mature and High Mass Consumption societies (developed states in Europe, North America, Asia or Australia).

7. SADC states are free to delay or avoid ratifying and domesticating the WHO FCTC

Just like the Rome Statute does not bind the USA, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria or China as these and many other states have not ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty on the basis that it does not suit and align with their national interest, the non-domestication of the WHO FCTC by SADC states that enjoy huge economic and financial benefits from tobacco production will be in their best interest as sovereign states. In intergovernmental bodies, non-ratification or domestication of treaties and conventions is not a crime as it is purely 100% voluntary-state actors are absolutely free to act unilaterally and behave in whichever way as they independently deem fit.  Hence, the five (5) SADC states concerned must treat the WHO FCTC with the same approach as the Rome Statute or any other UN convention.

8. Conclusion: global governance does not mean all must eat pork or drink ‘kachasu’

In conclusion, the world has repeatedly been threatened by many deadly epidemics such as HIV, leprosy, Ebola, malaria or cholera with millions of lives lost. But mankind has emerged triumphant through vigorous awareness campaigns and behavior change communication interventions. And for tobacco production and consumption just like alcohol or fast foods, the same approach is more realistic, fair as well as non-injurious to SADC economies- this could be the right policy path the WHO could consider for the FCTC. This is important because, global governance does not mean that all citizens of this earth must simultaneously start eating German pork, drinking Zambian ‘Kachasu’, wearing American/British jeans, walking fast like Chinese/Japanese, praying like Muslims/Christians or dancing Samba like Brazilians.


Chris Zumani Zimba  is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant.

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