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FACTS - The Alcohol industry and its effect on Africa

Why the Alcohol Industry Investment in Africa should be on our agenda

In Southern Africa, the consumption patterns ranges with Namibia and South Africa as the newest democracies showing similar patterns and ranked amongst the highest consumers of alcohol in the world. Below are WHO consumption statistics for a few countries in the region for people aged 15+.

  • 8.4 litres of pure alcohol per person, and if adjusted for only drinkers this increases to 20.2 litres person
  • heavy episode drinkers 7.8 and if adjusted for only drinkers 17.2 
  • 41.3 %  lifetime abstainers
  • 6.5 litres of pure alcohol per person and if adjusted for drinkers only this  increases to 21.7
  • Heavy episode drinkers 3.8 and if adjusted 12.8 
  • 58.2%  lifetime abstainers
  • 2.5 of pure litres if adjusted for drinkers only this increases to 12.8 litres
  • Heavy episodic drinkers 7.9 and if adjusted 40.8 
  • 67.9%  lifetime abstainers
  • 10.8 of pure litres if adjusted for drinkers only this increases to 27.7 litres
  • Heavy episodic drinkers 14.5 and if adjusted 37.2
  • 48.7%  lifetime abstainers
South Africa:
  • 11 litres and if adjusted 27.1 litres
  • Heavy episode drinkers 10.4 and if adjusted 25.6 litres, whilst having
  • 42% lifetime abstainers

The above figures indicates the existing supply and consumption challenge governments have to regulate and the potential growth of the market alcohol companies are interested in.

Concurrently, alcohol attributable deaths, injuries and diseases is well documented.
The WHO documented 2012 statistics in its 2014 report on Non-Communicable Disease identifying that

  • 16 million (42%) of the 38 million NCD related deaths were preventable
  • 28 million of all NCD deaths of people between 30 and 70 years occur in developing countries
  • 82% of the 16 million preventable deaths of people between 30 and 70 years occur in developing countries  
  • 4 main categories of NCD’s  identified are cardio vascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases
  • 4 modifiable behavioural risk factors directly linked to the 4 categories of NCD’s are tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and harmful use of alcohol

According to WHO, these deaths are preventable if governments implement measures that reduce exposure to the identified risk factors and enables health systems to respond.
Specifically, alcohol causes

  • 3.3 million deaths every year, representing 5.9% of all deaths globally
  • 5.1 % of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol, as measured in disability- adjusted life years (DALYs).3
  • In the age group 20 – 39 years approximately 25 % of the total deaths are alcohol-attributable

These figures do not reflect the additional impact alcohol has on domestic violence, suicides, road accidents, etc.
The industry continues to exploit the lack of employment opportunities on the continent by bringing more breweries under the pretext of creating jobs. It is also targeting women and young people through its advertising campaigns.

Most African countries have weak or no legislation restricting advertising which has resulted in a barrage of advertising across the continent. There is abundant research evidence that links alcohol advertising with increased in alcohol consumption especially in young people. Given the percentage of young people on our continent and the age of first experimentation, this is a big concern. For example:

In Lesotho

  • 40% of the population is under 15yrs of age
  • The WHO STEPS survey found that first experimentation age is between 10-14yrs. 

Personal, family, community, country and continent development is under threat. Increased supply of alcohol and the glamorisation of drinking through advertising will result in more and more resources spent on alcohol. This will impact on education, HIV, teenage pregnancy, road crashes, domestic violence, interpersonal violence amongst many other social challenges.

Sites for information on alcohol industry intentions:

Ventures Africa:
African Business Review:

For more information contact:

Aadielah Maker:                 Mphonyane Mofokeng:

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