Advocates in Nigeria celebrated the new year with news that President Muhammadu Buhari signed the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax into law as part of the 2021 Finance Act to be implemented in 2022. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI) Healthy Food Policy Advocacy Fund has been working with civil society organizations Gatefield Impact and National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) over the last year to increase public awareness and call for government action on the dangers of SSBs.
The newly implemented tax, an excise duty of N10 per liter ($0.02 USD/liter) imposed on all non-alcoholic and sweetened beverages, comes at a key moment in Nigeria, which is estimated to have over 12 million people suffering from obesity and leads the continent in diabetes prevalence. The tax will encourage decreased consumption, raise government revenue and will be a critical tool to help fight the non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemic in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy.
The implementation of healthy food policies, including SSB taxes, help curb the globally growing rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related non-communicable diseases. A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health in 2020 showed that South Africa’s SSB tax (referred to as the Health Promotion Levy) was effective in reducing consumption and purchases of taxed beverages within a year of going into effect. According to a study published by the University of Washington, Seattle saw a 20% decrease in consumption after it implemented an SSB tax in January 2018, and the decrease in low-income communities was even more significant.
Gatefield Impact and the NASR tirelessly advocated for the implementation of the SSB tax in Nigeria. They worked closely with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health and regularly engaged with the National Assembly to put the issue on the agenda. The coalition has a wide array of civil society partners including the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, the Nigeria Cancer Society, and GHAI’s Prevent Epidemics partner, Nigeria HealthWatch Foundation – all of whom collaborated to increase public and policymaker awareness and push for the tax.
“We are thrilled about this development. The SSB tax is a win for public health and the Nigerian people. Gatefield has benefited from the collaborative endeavors of diverse stakeholders, including members of our NASR coalition, other public health groups, and the academic research community, in achieving this historic milestone. Working with the team at GHAI has been the most productive experience for us and it is only the beginning. The introduction of this tax has spurred continuing advocacy efforts towards protecting the tax, ensuring its implementation, and further educating the public to gain greater understanding and support for the tax and its benefits,” said Shirley Ewang, Advocacy & External Engagement Specialist at Gatefield Impact.
GHAI’s Food Policy team supported Gatefield through an integrated advocacy campaign that helped push this tax over the finish line after the Ministry of Finance mentioned the potential in 2019 with no major movement. The GHAI team worked closely with Gatefield to develop an earned and digital communications strategy, define key advocacy actions, and conduct a nationally representative poll – all of which helped inform their messaging and strategies through evidence-based research and a traditional, paid and digital communications campaign.
We applaud President Buhari, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health for recognizing the importance of healthy food policies and the significant impact this SSB tax will have in Nigeria. Congratulations to Gatefield Impact and NASR for their dedication to public health. This is a big step towards fighting NCDs and improving the health of Nigerians.