Kenyans consume the least amounts of both recorded and unrecorded alcohol in sub-Saharan Africa, a new report said, coinciding with an intense government-led campaign against alcohol abuse.
The report dubbed ‘Effect of Kenya’s Alcohol Regulation Policies’ shows that Kenyans consume 3.4 litres of alcohol per capita which is thrice less than the amounts Ugandans and Tanzanians take.
Consumption of formal (recorded) alcohol that includes beer, spirits and wines accounts for 56 per cent of the drinking population while informal sources (unrecorded alcohol) such as chang’aa and a host of other illicit drinks account for 44 per cent.
In neighbouring Uganda, alcohol consumption is 9.5 litres per capita while in Tanzania it is 9.4 litres per capita. In Rwanda, the consumption is nine litres per capita.
The low consumption of alcohol in Kenya comes in the wake of government orders to crackdown on outlets in efforts to take excessive consumption among the youth and other productive members of the society. At least 12 out of every 100 Kenyans drink alcohol.
“It is very sad to note that we have more bars and clubs in the country than both primary and secondary schools combined.
“This is unacceptable and must be checked,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said last year.
The intake rate in three neighbouring countries is nearly double the average consumption of alcohol per capita in sub-Saharan Africa that stands at 6.3 litres per year.
While Kenya remains stringent in its fight against illicit liquor such as chang’aa that has led to hundreds of deaths and permanent maiming of its labour force, Uganda and Tanzania have regulated traditional drinks increasing affordability among their citizens.
Among the varied mix of traditional liquor in Uganda are bushera and waragi while in Tanzania the masses drink mbege and komoni, among others.
Some of the local brewers in Uganda and Tanzania have been licensed to produce the traditional drinks, unlike Kenya where the government continues to clamp down on the production of ‘killer brews’ that have led to deaths and blindness, denying the nation of the much-needed labour force.
The World Health Organisation defines recorded alcohol as one that is produced, distributed and sold under government control while unrecorded liquor is defined as one that is not accounted for in the national statistics on taxation as well as sold outside government control.
The report by Institute of Economic Affairs shows that Nigeria — the most populous nation in Africa with about 190 million people — leads in alcohol consumption at 13.4 litres per capita followed by its West African neighbour Gabon at 11.5 litres per capita.
Eswatini — formerly Swaziland — is third with 9.9 litres per capita followed by Uganda and Tanzania.
Uganda, which leads in alcohol consumption in the East African region — is the biggest buyer of Kenyan-made alcohol providing a ready market for the surplus drinks made locally.
The country accounted for 69 per cent of Kenya’s alcohol exports last year while the United Arab Emirates took 21 per cent.
The rest went to Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and The Netherlands.
“Kenyan firms have a small but significant surplus of beer products and this presents a commercial opportunity for regional exports,” the report reads in part.
Kenya, however, falls behind the rest of Africa in access to pure alcohol with a consumption rate of 3.4 litres per individual lower than the continental average of 6.3 litres per capita highlighting the country’s struggles to ensure quality and safe drink for the populace.
The country has in recent years sustained its fight on illicit brews following deaths of consumers.
Taxation has also led to the high cost of alcoholic beverages.
The government increased the tax on spirits by 14.3 per cent and duty on low-cost beers such as East African Breweries Limited’s Senator Keg in 2017.
Tax collections from excise duty on alcohol products have increased by 105 per cent from Sh19 billion in 2012 to Sh39 billion at end of last year underlining the government’s measures to curb illicit drinks from the market.
Beer accounted for the biggest chunk of the taxes collected, recording 71 per cent of the total excise duty on alcohol while wines and spirits had 29 per cent share last year.