Alcohol Lovers: Top 10 Alcohol-Consuming Countries in Africa

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Is Tanzania the alcohol capital of Africa?

Tanzania has an abundance of sunlight, wild animals, and local bars. There are hundreds of bars scattered across cities like Dar es Salaam, Moshi, and Mwanza. And they always seem to be packed to capacity with people watching football games, listening to music, or just having conversations with friends.

Tanzania Breweries Limited, responsible for producing most of Tanzania’s local beers like Kilimanjaro Lager, Safari Lager, and Castle Lite, is one of the biggest taxpayers in the country. Even the country’s current president’s middle name is ‘Pombe’, which literally means alcohol in Kiswahili.

However, Tanzania is not the only country in Africa with a population that loves to drink. In 2014, The World Health Organization (WHO) compiled the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, which shows the average amount of alcohol (pure ethyl alcohol) consumed by people who are 15 years and older in different countries around the world.

So, given the findings of the report, how does Tanzania compare to other African countries when it comes to the consumption of beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks?

Well, you are about to find out.

*The countries are listed from least to greatest alcohol consumers.

10. Tanzania:  7.7 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 87% from local brews

  • 11% is from beer

  • 2% is from spirits

  • Less than 1% of wine

While TBL is one of the biggest corporations in the country, only about 11% of alcohol consumption comes from beer. Whereas 87% of alcohol consumption is from local alcohol brews (moonshine) like Mbege, Pingu, Boha, Gongo, Lubisi, and Mnazi, that are specific to different regions in Tanzania.

9. Botswana: 8.4 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 56% is from beer

  • 12% is from wine

  • 11% from spirits

  • 21% is from other local brews

Unlike Tanzania, the majority of the alcohol consumed in Botswana is beer. The national beer, St. Louis, is incredibly cheap and highly consumed, though it’s pretty light and has a low alcohol percentage of 3.5% and 4.7%.

8. Sierre Leone: 8.7 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 93% from other local brews

  • 6% from beer

  • Less than 1% of wine and spirits

It seems that local brews are even more popular in Sierre Leone than they are in Tanzania. The most widely consumed local brew is called Poyo, a palm wine that is brewed from the sap of palm trees found in the country.

7. Burundi: 9.3 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 25% from beer

  • 75% from local brews

  • And less than 1% from spirits

It seems that many East African countries like their homemade moonshine. The most famous drink in Burundi is Urwarwa, moonshine made from pounding green bananas in a hole in the ground that is layered with burnt banana leaves.

6. Rwanda: 9.8 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 89% from other local brews

  • 11% from beer

  • Less than 1% from spirits

The most popular moonshines in Rwanda include:

  • Urgwagwa, made from bananas

  • Ubuki, made from fermented honey

  • Ikigage, made from dry sorghum

5. Uganda: 9.8 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 89% from local brews

  • 9% from beer

  • 2% from wine

  • Less than 1% from spirits

Many people in Tanzania would think that Uganda would be at the top of the list of alcohol consumers in Africa. The country’s reputation for drinking probably comes from the notoriety of its locally made moonshine, Waragi, which resembles gin and can be made from bananas, cassava, sugarcane, and millet. Moreover, Uganda has one of the highest concentrations of alcoholics in the world, and this greatly contributes to its reputation as the drinking capital of Africa.

4. Nigeria: 10.1 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 91% is from other local brews

  • 8% is from beer

  • Less than 1% of wine and spirits

The alcohol consumption in Nigeria has significantly decreased since 2005, when it was about 12.3% and the highest in Africa. The most widely consumed local brew, known as Ogogoro, is made out of sap from raffia palm trees and contains anywhere between 30-to-60 percent alcohol.

3. Namibia: 10.8 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 97% is from beer

  • 2% from other local brews

  • 1% from spirits

  • Less than 1% of wine

It’s clear that Namibians love their beer, particularly the local beer Windhoek Lager, a very light German-like beer. Namibia is also a relatively rich country in Africa and therefore, it’s population can afford to buy beer versus relying on local brews.

2. Gabon: 10.9 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Contrary to Nigeria’s alcohol statistics, Gabon’s average alcohol consumption per capita has increased by almost 2 litres since 2005.

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 68% from beer

  • 12% from wine

  • 20% from spirits

  • And less than 1% from other local brews

According to an article by AFK Insider, the most popular and affordable beer brand in Gabon is Regab, which costs between TZS 500 to TZS 4000 depending on the type. Moreover, there are no taxes on alcoholic beverages, which makes imported alcohol also incredibly affordable.

1.  South Africa: 11 litres of alcohol per capita per year

Alcohol breakdown:

  • 48% from beer

  • 18% from wine

  • 17% from spirits

  • 17% from others

While South Africa is the wine capital of the continent and is one of the biggest wine producers in the world, the majority of its alcohol consumption comes from beer. Beyond the popularity of beer brands like Castle and Black Label, South Africa is pretty evenly distributed in the other types of alcohol people consume.

However, being the biggest alcohol consumer in Africa has its downsides, as the government is currently considering raising the drinking age to 21 in an effort to reduce the growing health problems (especially in newborns) associated with alcohol consumption.

Everything in moderation

Recently, the Tanzanian government passed a law that restricted the sale of alcohol between the hours of 4 pm until 12 am.  The law aims to reduce the lack of productivity caused by excessive alcohol consumption, as well as health risks like alcoholism and depression that are enabled by bars serving beers early in the day. Despite this new regulation, most social gatherings in Tanzania continue to be centred on the consumption of alcohol. And the thing is, as long as you drink in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a beer or two.

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.