ZAMBIA last year lost US$145.5 million through tax evasion by unregistered and registered low-cost spirits producers and smuggling of ethanol and beverages, a report has revealed. And Vice-President Inonge Wina has backed Zambian Breweries’ Youth Mentorship Programme aimed at curbing alcohol abuse among youth and promoting positive and responsible decision-making through mentorship.
According to a report by Euromonitor International commissioned by Zambian Breweries, Market Analysis for Illicit Alcohol in sub-Saharan Africa, the loss was an increment from US$53.6 million calculated in 2014.
The report states that Zambia is “highly exposed to large volumes of illicit trade”, and reflects the high proportion of impoverished people who cannot afford licit products and therefore purchase illicit alternatives, both packaged and unpackaged.
Speaking at the launch of the mentorship programme at the Radisson Blu Hotel on Friday, Zambian Breweries country director Jose Moran attributed the rampant alcohol abuse to the sale of cheap unregulated illicit spirits.
“The youth have suffered social and health problems because of alcohol abuse and sale of junta and tujilijili,” he said.
Moran said the company was a responsible brewer and would continue to support the mentorship programme and expressed hope that it would expand to other parts of the country.
The mentorship programme currently has 30 mentors and would see trained mentors provide counselling and career guidance to young people signed up for the programme.
And in a speech read for her by permanent secretary for administration Stephen Mwansa, Vice-President Wina encouraged the youth to take advantage of the mentorship programme.
“This initiative is fully in line with the objectives of the Seventh National Development Plan and the Vision 2030, which call for economic co-diversification and employment creation. I wish, therefore, to thank the Zambian Breweries group of companies for introducing the mentorship and empowerment programme targeting youth below the age of 25,” Vice-President Wina said.
She added that the government was happy that Zambian Breweries was in tandem with President Edgar Lungu’s call to lessen alcohol abuse among youth for a productive labour force, during his address to the 12th National Assembly early this year.
Zambian Breweries is hoping to steer youths away from alcohol and drug abuse with celebrity ambassadors, including musician Maureen Lilanda, media personality Lulu Haangala, and actress Grace Rumsey. The trio will be joined by 20 other mentors who will be available to inspire Zambian youth to fulfill their potential.
The mentorship programme offers activities that positively impact lives and enable young people to become the best version of themselves.
The structured programme includes ongoing support for Chibolya Media Farm, Bauleni Football Academy, Sotrane, AfroTwist and the YWCA.
Ministry of National Guidance permanent secretary Katongo Chifwepa assured youths that the programme was a constructive one and had good intentions.