Why Alcoholism is on the Rise in Africa

July 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Uncategorized

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

July 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Uncategorized

A group of men in Western Kenya sharing a traditional alcoholic drink locally known as Busaa. BBC

Judging by the growing number of multinational beverage companies emerging in Africa, it is indeed permissible to say that Africa has an alcohol problem.

While many African governments are drawing a huge chunk of their annual revenue from the booming alcohol and beverage industry, they are also struggling with an alcohol dependent population whose appetite for alcohol and patterns of drinking are cause for concern.

Many have argued that some African governments end up spending more resources to deal with alcohol-related problems than they collect from alcohol manufacturers and retailers in form of tax.

Current statistics show that South Africa is the largest alcohol market on the African continent, with close to 30.9 million hectoliters of alcohol consumed per year. It is followed by Nigeria, whose current consumption of alcohol is around 15.9 million hectoliters per annum.

Poverty and Alcoholism in Africa

A majority of Africans no longer drink alcohol for pleasure; they are problem drinkers – a situation that has largely been attributed to the rising levels of poverty in the continent.

Recent estimates by the World Bank revealed that about 20 percent of the African population lives on one dollar a day and sometimes less than a dollar.

While most African governments are working towards eradicating poverty, they have failed to address the increasing threat of alcoholism, which is a common denominator in the lives of many low-income families in the continent.

Many poor Africans have turned to alcohol hoping to drown their sorrows, only to get hooked and become alcohol dependent, which adds to their financial and emotional burdens.

Rising Middle Class with Disposable Income

As Africa continues to develop, its middle-class population is also growing, with more financial freedom and generous spending habits.

This class of people views excessive drinking of alcohol as fashionable, and more beverage companies are moving in to capitalize on that.

A report published by the Business Daily Africa in March showed that Kenya’s middle-class guzzled a total of 5.7 million shillings worth of Scotch whisky.

Lack of Sustainable Regulations on Alcohol Consumption

Although many African countries, especially Muslim ones, have put in place laws that regulate alcohol consumption, the laws haven’t had any meaningful effect on the problem of alcoholism.

African governments have a duty to create a workable legal framework that will regulate the availability of alcohol to their citizens. They must also focus on community-based prevention measures to ensure they address the problem from its core source.

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