It is evening and I’m at Reds, a new Tavern in Kacyiru, a city suburb. The atmosphere is light, the mood is right and the night is still young. The place is already jam-packed with young people mostly in the 20 to 30 age bracket.
Seeing so many young folks drowning bottles of beer and other tribes of drinks did not only worry me but also left me puzzled as to what makes such a big number of young people drink that way.
“I don’t know if young people drink for the same reasons our parents and other adults do. But most of us love drinking because of the party atmosphere alcohol brings. Booze gives you the confidence to meet new people; it loosens your boundaries a little bit, so you feel less restricted,” explained Irene Tessie, a 3rd year student at Kigali Independent University.
Ivan Tumukunde, 26 years, IT Manager working with Toogle Advertising Media, says his drinking habit developed years before he was even a teenager.
“Drinking is part of our family culture. My father used to pass a bottle of urwagwa (local banana wine) to me urging me to take a sip. He would say ‘Sha, enda somaho ntuzabimbwa’ loosely meaning, ‘take a sip son and grow to be a man’,” said Tumukunde.
Many young people agree that a parent’s influence plays a big role in alcohol use.
Dr. Ines Gakuba, a councilor, also revealed that parents who drink or view drinking favorably, are likely to spread the vice to their kids at a young stage.
The growing number of young people who consume alcohol is also blamed on TV commercials and other media adverts. Today alcohol is aggressively promoted through television, billboards, magazines and other varied media heads such as radio and sports stadium signs.
However, Fred Nyangesi, the head of Coporates at Bralirwa, dismissed it as an assumption.
“As an alcohol producing company, we have the responsibility to pro-actively support responsible consumption of alcohol. Bralirwa is involved in positively promoting the role of beer in society. None of our agents sell beer to persons who are underage, we educate people on the dangers of over drinking and the, ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaign is currently underway,” emphasized Nyangesi.
With the current debate on what extremes should be put in place to curb binge drinking among underage alcohol consumers, youth, breweries, parents and bar owners have to quickly agree on a set standard of consuming alcohol given all that is at stake.