Is Africa really a drunken continent?

“Africa has a drinking problem,” declared a recent article in Time Magazine. But is the evidence there to support such a sweeping statement?

Kate Wilkinson, a researcher at the Africa Check website, is in a good position to know, and she stresses that drinking habits in the continent’s 55 countries vary.

“There are different attitudes towards alcohol. Different religious beliefs about consuming alcohol. And to simply make this broad generalisation about the continent doesn’t give us much insight,” she says.

Reliable statistics on global alcohol consumption are hard to come by, and the numbers that we do have are quite old. Much of the World Health Organization’s 2011 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health relies on data from the period 2003-2005.

But to the extent that they can be relied on, the WHO numbers don’t appear to support the claim made in the Time article, headlined Africa’s Drinking Problem: Alcoholism on the Rise as Beverage Multinationals Circle.