South Africa can show BRICS leadership with a new sugar approach

South Africa blazed a trail as the first African country to legalise a tax on sugary drinks, making a bold stand on 1 April 2018. By implementing this pioneering move, we paved the way for a strategy that could reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages significantly.

Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that a carefully designed tax, aimed at increasing the retail price by 20% or more, would result in proportional reductions in consumption, steering citizens towards healthier choices.

READ MORE: WE Can’t Rely On Food and Beverage Industry to Safeguard Our Health.  


Not long after South Africa’s groundbreaking action, other countries, including Botswana and Zambia, followed suit, implementing their own versions of the sugary drinks tax. However, the road to a healthier society has not been smooth. Many African nations have been slow to act, potentially because of resistance from the beverage industry, which has been fighting back vehemently against these new regulations.

South Africa’s courageous step may have set the stage for a broader transformation, sparking a debate on how to combat obesity and promote healthier living. But the struggle against industry pushback and the adaptation of these laws across the continent continues.

This opinion piece was published in the Daily Maverick on the 29th of August 2023

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