Top beer distributors have joined numerous other people calling for the reopening of bars after the government closed them as a measure to combat the spread of Covid-19. Several other groups ranging from Bar owners, Entertainers like artistes and comedians to DJs and Bouncers have also made their feelings known and called the government to re-open bars with strict observance of Standard Operating Procedures.
This comes after the government started easing the measures a few months back and now with Churches, Schools, Salons and other public places open, it’s only bars and a few other places that attract big crowds still not allowed to operate.
So in this regard representatives of beer distributors had a meeting yesterday in which they called authorities to look into their issue as it is affecting the economy in many ways as key players in the value chain..
“We would like to applaud the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the various government players for leading the fight against COVID-19 in Uganda. We appreciate the steadfast response to protecting Uganda and her population against the global pandemic”. Said Herbert Tumwesigye – Great Lakes Regional Distributors
He adds that, In addition to the stress the pandemic has caused to health systems in the country, there are also numerous pressures to the economy as a result of the measures that have been put in place in response to the pandemic.
“While we appreciate the need for an aggressive health response to the pandemic, the negative effects to our economic wellbeing have caused significant strain and affected the livelihoods of many”. He said.
The alcoholic beverages industry consists of an eco-system, of which distributors and retailers are part.
“We are here today to represent a total of 120 business enterprises focusing on beer distribution countrywide who together, provide employment to 1,800 Ugandans with an estimated 9,000 dependents. This number is even higher with spirits distributors which account for over 1,000 businesses and tens of thousands of employees and dependents”.
Beverage distributors are classified as small and medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs contribute up to 45% of the nation’s total employment, makeup over 70% of our economy and contribute over 30% of the country’s GDP.
“As distributors and retailers of beverages, our business significantly depends on supplying and distributing to bars and night clubs, whose businesses remain closed”.
The continued closure of bars has had a severe impact on our businesses leading to revenues of up to UGX550 billion being wiped out. This situation continues to escalate as the bar closure drags on for more months.
The distributors say they have also been forced to downsize and make the painful decision to lay off employees. This is not a decision made lightly and in effect, is contributing to the national unemployment burden.
Uganda has one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations in the world, the current population growth rate averages at 3.3% annually. With the current population of 47.2 million people, 57% of which is constituted by young men and women below the age of 18, this rapid population growth and expansion is continuously putting pressure on the country’s social and economic services including job opportunities.
The national unemployment rate for Uganda currently stands at 9.2%, youth unemployment, and specifically for those between the ages of 18-30 is 13.3%.
“We find ourselves in a situation where we face increased difficulty in meeting our credit and tax obligations”. Herbert Kamuntu of Kachain Logistics a Nile Breweries Distributor added.
SMEs in Uganda already face numerous challenges. These include access to affordable finance, and the continued closure of bars has exacerbated this situation and put economic progress at risk as MSMEs have been tapped as the engine for Uganda’s growth, economic development, innovation, and wealth creation.
“The continued closure of bars is a tremendous burden to the retail and distribution business, and while we are cognizant of the fact that the reopening of bars presents a risk to the wellbeing of the country, we believe a lot can be done in the way of a collaborative effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the public”.
“We are therefore requesting government consideration to re-open bars and clubs across the country, with strict observance to COVID-19 public health standard operating procedures”.Seruta Godfrey of Premier Distributors said.