Plans are underway by the South African government to introduce a sugar tax to help curb the country’s growing obesity concerns with the global increase in obesity and overweight rates across developing countries, surpassing the rate of obesity in developed states.
Statistics according to the Overseas Development Institute shows that the number of overweight and obese people in the developing world has grown from 250 million in 1980 to a billion in recent years.
The plan is to introduce a 20% tax on soft drinks that will come into force April 1, making South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of obesity on the continent, the first African country to adopt the measure. South Africa follows in the footsteps of Mexico, France, Hungary and New York, which have pioneered the strategy.
Mexico instituted a 10% tax on sugary drinks, such as juice and soda, in 2013, which resulted in a 10% rise in the cost of these products in 2014, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. The same study also found that purchases of taxed beverages fell by 6% in the first year of implementation, while sales of water and non-taxed beverages rose by 4%
Denmark instituted a “fat tax” on foods containing more than 2.3% saturated fats, introduced in October 2011. The tax was abolished the following year after the public failed to accept it and instead crossed into neighbouring Germany to stock up on food.
The UK also made an announcement of a soft drink levy as part of a larger Plan for Action against childhood obesity. A recent report found that 9% of children ages 4 to 5 and 19% of children ages 10 to 11 measured in the UK’s national child measurement program were obese.
South Africa is the first African nation to make this move, but the question remains: Will a tax on sugary drinks have an effect?