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On 8 November 2012, SAAPA was established at the inaugural Southern African Alcohol Policy Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Attending the forum were delegates selected from civil society organizations from the following regional countries; Namibia, Malawi, Madagascar, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa as well as organisations from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Sweden and Norway. The purpose of the forum was to build competence on the alcohol situation on both a local and a global level, exchange policy and prevention work experience and discuss a closer regional collaboration.

The Forum was organised by the two Norwegian NGOs FORUT and Blue Cross together with the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance. Co-sponsors were the WHO Regional Office for Africa, the Medical Research Council of South Africa, International Blue Cross (IFBC) and The African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies.