Maisha Marefu! Five African countries who really, really love alcohol

From the arid northern plains to the rich ribbon of jungle around the equator and the wild ocean shores of the south, alcohol is loved throughout Africa.

While the highest rates of consumption belong to nations from The West, in the Global South those thirsty for a beverage with an added kick are increasing steadily in number.

The World Health Organisation’s Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health provides some interesting insights into exactly how the increasing gallons of alcohol are being consumed – and exactly who is consuming them.

We’ve picked out some of Africa’s most guzzle-happy countries, as judged by the annual amount of litres of pure alcohol consumed per capita by each nation’s drinking population.

5. Tanzania – 18.4 litres per capita

Tanzania isn’t the richest of countries. Almost half of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. But Tanzanians don’t let that get in the way of them and their tipple, with locals making their own (highly concentrated) brews and selling them at prices discounted far below that which drinkers would have to pay on the legal alcohol market. A whopping 87% of Tanzania’s alcohol consumption comes from unregulated sources.

4. Kenya – 18.9 litres per capita

In most African countries men dominate the drinking culture. Not so in Kenya, where women are equally responsible for the high levels of alcohol consumption as men are. Everybody drinks the omnipresent Tusker Lager, or if it’s been a good month at the office, Tusker Premium. Other brands’ produce is also consumed – with wine being particularly popular – but usually only amongst the country’s elite.

3. Rwanda – 22 litres per capita

92% of Rwanda’s total alcohol intake is made up of alcohol types like banana beer (urgwagwa), fermented honey drinks (ubuki) and ikigage, a brew made from dry sorghum. The remaining 8% is lager. Due to cheap prices and the ready availability of alcohol in Rwanda, boozing with friends is a major cultural activity.

2. Burundi – 22 litres per capita

Burundi drinkers care little traditional for wines and spirits, instead preferring a nice cool beer, with the hoppy drink accounting for 19% of the country’s total alcohol intake. The Burundi people will also often be found sipping ‘Urwarwa’, a bizarre brew best described as banana wine. The kids are in on it too, with 24% of Burundi youths ingesting alcohol regularly before the age of 13.

1. Uganda – 23.7 litres per capita

Uganda top this list, with an alcohol intake rate that makes one’s kidney wince (although that’s nothing compared to the likes of South Africa, 27.1 and Chad, 33.9). Most of this alcohol (89%) is home-brewed moonshine, which Ugandans and tourists alike cannot get enough of. The girl in the above photo captions her image on Flickr with the line: “It’s not snake wine, but [a] picture of me, our driver and a water bottle filled with nasty-ass moonshine.”

Maisha Marefu!

Images via Al_HikesAZ / Oleg / Mike / beccacantpark / counterculturecoffee / Jocelyn Saurini / cc

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