Energy drinks are not new in Nigeria. In fact, they are seen as something normal to buy and drink as one goes about one’s daily activities in Nigeria. In other words, Nigerians cannot do without it. Some reportedly take as much as four bottles of these drinks a day. Based on statistics, an estimated 35 million people drink soft drinks daily in the country. This is roughly 20 percent of the population. So, this industry is lucrative and booming.
Unfortunately, majority of these drinks are not manufactured in the country. Instead, they are imported. A consumer rights protection group, Concerned Consumers (CC), has revealed that Nigeria loses an estimated N104 billion annually to the importation of energy drinks. This is why they have called for its ban. The group argued that the importation of these foreign energy drinks is hindering the growth of local manufacturing companies which are producing similar products. The group said that this added to the already high rate of unemployment in the country.
Banning these products would create 300,000 jobs locally.
Ms. Olufemi Odebunmi, the convener of the Concerned Consumer group, quoted statistics to support their call for a ban on imported energy drinks. According to her, over 300,000 jobs would have been created for Nigerians if the market had been allowed to grow locally without the imports. Instead of hundreds of thousands of fully and gainfully employed individuals, an average of 1,800 and 2,000 containers of these products are imported into the country every year.
Each container is said to contain 2,600 cases. Each of these cases costs between N18,000 and N20,000, putting the annual importation costs of these products at over N104 billion. The convener disclosed that more than 85 percent of the market is dominated by imported energy drink brands. The locally manufactured brands, on the other hand, are all struggling because they do not have the name and recognition that matches the imported brands. This has put them at a disadvantage as they are considered inferior to the foreign brands.
CC group calls on authorities to discourage energy drink importation.
Ms. Odebunmi said that local industries might close down if the trade continues unchecked. She highlights the ripple effects it will create. First, it will lead to massive loss of jobs and scarcity of the much-needed foreign exchange, and it will further lead to the depreciation of the Naira. The group also addressed a statement to the heads of relevant agencies of government. It is titled, “The Importation of Energy Drinks into Nigeria despite Proven Health Hazards and the Various Ban on Imported Juices.”
In it, they argued that if fruit juices can be banned, energy drinks ought to be banned and should be included in the Import Prohibition List. Consequently, they called on relevant authorities including Nigeria Customs Service, the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration Control (NAFDAC), Consumers Protection Council of Nigeria, and Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to discourage the unscrupulous importation of energy drinks into the country. They claim that it will jeopardize the interest of the local industries and sabotage the national interest of the country.
Will banning foreign products automatically boost local production?
The convener emphasized that part of the interest of import prohibition was to promote local production of these items, and the effects can be seen from the growing fruit juice industry in Nigeria which has grown in leaps and bounds from 2015, following its import prohibition. However, there are questions about if a ban on these products will automatically result in a boost for the industry? President Muhammadu Buhari a few years ago banned the importation of foreign rice. The result was that the price of a bag of rice tripled in just a number of months.