Kenyans drinking more alcohol

Tuesday October 7 2014

A bartender in Nairobi on October 7, 2014. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

A bartender in Nairobi on October 7, 2014. A new report by the World Health Organisation says Kenyans lead the East Africa region in alcohol drinking. However, Rwanda and Uganda lead in the consumption of traditional and illicit brews. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Alcohol has become the beverage of choice for more Kenyans over the last 10 years, a new survey by the World Health Organisation has revealed.

The report says the country’s economic growth is one of the main factors that have led to the rise in alcohol consumption.

Last week, Kenya rebased its economic indicators and now ranks as Africa’s ninth largest economy.

Other factors fuelling higher consumption were aggressive marketing by alcohol manufacturers and lack of effective government control.

Despite the encouraging news about how economic fortunes are influencing consumers’ choice of beverages, the study also indicates that more Kenyans have become binge drinkers, meaning, they consume more than six drinks at a sitting.

More of them are thus suffering from diseases attributed to alcohol abuse.

Out of the close to 40 million Kenyans, 1.2 per cent of adults are considered binge drinkers.

The report says that alcohol consumption rose year on year from independence in 1963.

The last time there was a drop was between 1980 to 2003. According to the report, there has been a constant increase in consumption since 2003.

“The relationship between economic development, alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable burden of disease is interrelated,” the report says.

Overall, Kenya’s adult alcohol consumption was 4.3 litres per person in 2013, up from 4.1 litres per person when a similar study was carried out in 2003.


Men consume five times more alcohol than women and it is therefore not surprising that they are twice more likely to die of liver cirrhosis compared to women.

Men are also six times more likely than women to be dependent on alcohol.

They also form the bulk of binge drinkers.

Road safety enforcement agencies, including traffic police and the National Transport Safety Authority, may be interested in knowing that Kenyan women are less likely to be involved in a road crash while drunk with only 1.1 per cent of women reported as having been involved in a crash while drunk compared to 6.5 per cent of men.

Interesting, among East African countries, Ugandans and Rwandans outdrink Kenya. In the two countries, an average adults drinks 9.8 litres of alcohol annually.

However, the report says that the two countries only beat Kenya at consuming illicit and traditional brews.

Rwanda and Uganda lead the pack with 89 per cent of the drinks consumed there being either traditional or illicit.

They are followed by Tanzania at 87 per cent, Burundi at 75 and Ethiopia at 41 per cent.

Estimates for war-torn Somalia were not available.

When it comes to frothy substances, Kenya has no rival.

The country leads in beer consumption in the region with 56 per cent of alcohol consumed in Kenya being beer.

This is even higher than Nigeria and South Africa — the continent’s largest economies where drinkers consume 48 and eight per cent of beer respectively.