Whether your preference is beer, wine, or spirits, you’re no stranger to kicking back with a drink or two (or three, or four…). But add all the party people together, and you’ve got some seriously astounding numbers on the amount of alcohol consumed each year. Based on the World Health Organization’s 2011 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, the following African countries reported the highest annual alcohol consumption on the continent. Countries were measured by the amount of pure ethyl alcohol consumed per capita per year among people age 15 or older. These are the 17 top alcohol-drinking countries in Africa.
This article first appeared Nov. 7, 2013.
Liberians drink a whole lot of palm wine and a local lager called Club. In Liberia, 88.1 percent of alcohol consumed is spirits, while beer accounts for 10.8 percent of alcohol consumption. Wine is not that popular — just 1 percent.
In Ghana, wine makes up 30 percent of alcohol consumption and beer makes up 9.7 percent; 2.9 percent comes from spirits and 57.3 percent comes from other types of alcohol.
The islanders of Seychelles do 67 percent of their drinking on beer, and 22.2 percent on wine while 10.8 percent of consumption is spirits. A popular Seychelles drink is called Coco D’Amour — a coconut liqueur. Seychelles locals also like palm wine.
In Zimbabwe, 23.7 percent of alcohol consumption comes from wine and 1.7 percent from beer, 6.8 percent of consumption is spirits and 67.7 percent is other types of alcohol. Whawha is a popular beer in Zimbabwe made of maize. In hotels you can find imported spirits, wine and beers.
In Equatorial Guinea, beer makes up 27.8 percent of alcohol consumption and wine makes up 72.2 percent. Beer and wine constitute all of the alcohol consumption in the country, with none from spirits or other types of alcohol.
In Angola, beer makes up 64.3 percent of alcohol consumption and wine makes up 13.7 percent, while 17.4 percent comes from spirits and 4.7 percent from other types of alcohol. Angolans make several homemade spirits such as capatica made from bananas, caporoto made from maize and maluva, sometimes called palm wine.
Formerly colonized by Germany and France, Cameroonians tend to drink more foreign beer than local, with 44 percent of the total alcohol consumption coming from beer. Wine and spirits make up 1 percent or less of consumption. Most Cameroonians drink in the “other” category, meaning drinks made of one of several other alcoholic beverages such as fermented sorghum, corn, millet, rice, cider, fruit wine and fortified wine.
In Tanzania, 11 percent of alcohol consumption comes from beer, and only 0.2 percent comes from wine, while 1.8 percent comes from spirits and 87 percent of alcohol is from other sources. Tanzanians are known for liking to make and imbibe moonshine-type drinks.
Botswana also has a lot of alcohol consumption — 42 percent — coming from the “other” category. But beer consumption is even higher, making up 57 percent of the total. This may be due to high rate of consumption of Botswana’s national beer, St. Louis. It is not universally loved, however. Many people — locals and visitors alike — say that St. Louis is worse than the cheapest light beers found elsewhere in the world. Many opt instead for beer imports from nearby South Africa or Namibia.
The favored alcoholic drink of choice for Gabonians is clear. While 10 percent and 22 percent of alcohol consumption in Gabon comes from wine and spirits respectively, 68 percent comes from beer. The cheapest and most popular beer in Gabon is Regab, costing from 70 cents to $2, and absence of taxation on any alcoholic beverages makes it easy to import from abroad.
In such a major wine-producing country (No. 9 in the world for exports), it’s somewhat surprising to learn that wine is not the preferred beverage choice of South Africans. Beer rules in South Africa with 56 percent of alcohol consumption, while 17 percent, 16 percent, and 11 percent are wine, spirits, and “other” respectively. The most popular beer brands are Castle and Black Label, but the country’s extensive vineyards in Stellenbosch and the Western Cape produce some of the world’s most popular wines.
Burundi narrowly beat out South Africa in the Africa rankings. Drinkers in Burundi overwhelmingly prefer “other” drinks, which make up 81 percent of consumption. Beer, by comparison, makes up 19 percent and wine and spirits barely make a showing. The most famous drink in Burundi is urwarwa or banana wine, often produced according to a traditional method — fermenting mashed bananas in a hole on the ground lined with dried banana leaves that are set on fire — and consumed mostly during festivals and special occasions.
Like its South African neighbor, Namibia has a broad breakdown of favorite drinks, but beer carries the most weight with 67 percent of alcohol consumption. Spirits make up 20 percent, wine makes up 7 percent and “other” chips in at 6 percent. The country’s flagship beer, Windhoek Lager, is popular across the country and surrounding region, and is similar to many lighter German beers (not surprising, given the German colonial history).
While just 7 percent of Sierra Leone’s alcohol consumption comes from beer, the national brewer Sierra Leone Breweries Ltd. is responsible for producing the popular Star beer that is widely consumed. But it is poyo, a local brewed palm wine, that is the nation’s favorite adult beverage. It can be drunk directly from the tree or fermented a bit longer for a stronger fix.
Just 8 percent of alcohol consumption comes from beer in Rwanda, despite the popular Turbo King, Primus, and Amstel brands being widely available. The other 92 percent is largely from homemade drinks such as the banana beer, urgwagwa, and the fermented honey drink, ubuki. Ikigage, made from dry sorghum, is also common in Rwanda.
Ahead of the pack by a long shot — but not No. 1 in Africa — is Uganda, with 11.93 liters of alcohol consumed per person each year. Just 4 percent of consumption is beer and 2 percent is wine, while the “other” category is a resounding winner at 94 percent of consumption. The generic term for domestically distilled beverages in Uganda is waragi, but this can cover a variety of drinks — pombe and lubisi, or locally made banana or millet beer, tonto, a traditionally fermented drink made from bananas, banana wine, and many more.
No. 1 in Africa for alcohol consumption is Nigeria. Beer makes up just 6 percent of alcohol consumption, while “other” drinks make up 94 percent due to the high popularity of home-brewed beverages. Religious lawmakers are making it more difficult and expensive to produce and sell alcohol in the country. Known as Nigeria’s homebrew, ogogoro is an extremely alcoholic drink. It has 30-to-60 percent ethyl alcohol content, depending on how it’s made, and is produced from the juice of raffia palm trees.