Alcohol Consumption, Harms and Policy Developments in Sub‐Saharan Africa: The Case for Stronger National and Regional Responses
Sub‐Saharan Africa (SSA) has long been characterized as a region with weak alcohol policies, high proportions of abstainers and heavy episodic alcohol users (among those who use alcohol), and as a target for market expansion by global alcohol producers. However, inter‐regional analyses of these issues are seldom conducted.
Focusing mainly on the period 2000–2016, this study compares alcohol consumption and harms, alcohol policy developments and alcohol industry activities over time and across the four sub‐regions of SSA.
Per‐capita consumption of alcohol and alcohol‐related disease burden have increased in Central Africa but stabilised or reduced in other regions, although they are still high. Most countries have implemented tax policies, but they have seldom adopted other World Health Organization ‘best buys’ for cost‐effective alcohol control policies. Countries range from having minimal alcohol controls to having total bans (e.g. some Muslim‐majority countries); and some, such as Botswana, have attempted stringent tax policies to address alcohol harm. Alcohol producers have continued their aggressive marketing and policy interference activities, some of which have been highlighted and, in a few instances, resisted by civil society and public health advocates, particularly in southern Africa.
Increased government support and commitment are needed to be able to adopt and implement effective alcohol policies and respond to pressures from alcohol companies to which SSA remains a target market.
SSA needs effective alcohol control measures in order to reverse the trajectory of worsening alcohol harms observed in some countries and reinforce improvements in alcohol harms observed in others.