Africa – Imperial Tobacco’s “unloved asset to a platform for future growth”

Africa – Imperial Tobacco’s “unloved asset to a platform for future growth”

Tobacco giant, Imperial Brands, at its annual shareholders meeting recently in the UK, announced its profits and plans for the next five years – these plans depict a bleak future for Africa. The tobacco multinational plans to turn Africa “from an unloved asset to a platform for future growth.”

According to Imperial Brands, tobacco sales are expected “to decline in most regions – except for Africa. The tobacco giant states that in Africa it has “leadership positions in four of our top five markets, thanks to strong brands and unparalleled route-to-market capabilities.” It adds that it has identified opportunities to drive growth through multiple levers in the region, where affordability is improving as incomes increase.

In the annual report, Imperial Brands talks about increasing market share and consequently, making more money, by focusing on local “jewel brands”. “The Africa region continues to be an attractive portfolio of markets with opportunities for further value growth. … while our focus on local jewel brands delivered share gains in Burkina Faso and the Côte d’Ivoire.”

Leonce Sessou, Executive Secretary of the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), notes that, “It is scandalous for Imperial Tobacco to refer to Africa in such a demeaning manner. Africa is not for sale to the tobacco industry. We don’t need the love of an industry that sells a harmful product which is killing our people. Tobacco is the kiss of death.”

Table 1: African countries where Imperial Brands controls cigarette market

Burkina Faso MABUCIG sa, subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco MABUCIG (Burkina Cigarette Factory) is local leader controlling more than 80% of the cigarette market; sells brands such as Davidoff and Hamilton
Chad Manufacture des Cigarettes du Tchad (MCT), subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco Controls 65% of cigarette market. Cigarette brands – Fine, News and PS
Cote d’lvoire Société Ivoirienne des Tabacs (SITAB), subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco. SITAB is the market leader (45% of sales) and only local manufacturer.

SITAB sells cigarette brands such as Fine, Gauloises Blondes and Mustang

Gabon Distributor: Compagnie d’exploitations commerciales africaines Ceca-Gadis is the main ally/distributor of Imperial Brands products in Gabon
Senegal Manufacture de Tabacs de l’Ouest Africain (MTOA) local subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco Leads the cigarette market

In the pursuit of increasing cigarette sales in Africa, Imperial Brands has undermined government efforts to protect public health. In their national Tobacco Industry Interference Index, tobacco control advocates have reported how the multinational has derailed tobacco control efforts. ACONTA in Burkina Faso for example has documented how a 2015 law to apply 60% pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs was delayed when the provisions of this order were challenged by MABUCIG (Imperial). This was also revealed in an exposé in the Guardian, in 2016. Imperial Tobacco sent a letter to the Minister of Health of Burkina Faso warning that restrictions on labelling and packaging cigarettes risks economic and social damage to the country. After a 4-year delay, graphic health warnings finally went into place in July 2019.

Similarly, in Cote d’lvoire, CLUCOD reported in their index how tobacco packs required a text-only warning on the side panel for a long time. However, new pictorial warnings of 70% requirements under Section 11 of Public Law No. 2019-676 on the front and back of the pack were delayed for several years.

Know more about the Africa Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2021.