Evidence From East Africa shows that alcohol causes poverty and keeps people in the vicious cycle of poverty

When I talk to friends and associates about alcohol and poverty, they seem sceptical and don’t believe, what evidence shows, that the two are connected. For starters, let’s consult wikipedia on poverty:

  • Poverty is scarcity, dearth, or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution refers to the deprivation of basic human needs, which commonly includes food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care and education.

Poverty is more complex than so, for example with the immaterial aspect of it. But for making this case about alcohol’s relation to poverty, it’s enough to use the definition above. So this time I thought, let’s simply do the math.

Alcohol expenditure fuels poverty

In Kenya the average price of a pint of beer is $1.19. In Nairobi the price can be as high as $1.27. In Bujumbura it’s $0.55, in Rwanda $0.58, and in Tanzania $1.05 and can be as high as $1.58 in Zanzibar. The price of beer in Uganda averages $1.17.


Piling up #Evidence

Piling up

A study carried out by the Regional Office East Africa of the IOGT-NTO movement in 2012 to assess the Alcohol Situation in East Africa found that some of the respondents take alcohol at least twice a week and others as much as five or more times per week.

Alcohol use per week in East Africa #Evidence

Alcohol use per week in East Africa

Alcoholic Beverages taken per sitting (in this case 500ml bottles of beer) are two or more and in some cases intake goes up to as many as five or more alcoholic beverages per occasion.

Alcohol use per occasion #Evidence

Alcohol use per occasion in East Africa

The table below shows the average amounts used up every year by alcohol users in East Africa – only buying the cheapest commercial beer.

test #Evidence

Average amount used on alcohol per year

If this money was saved and invested, I do believe, East Africans would be economically far ahead of where they are right now. These figures just show the cheapest commercial alcohol, i.e. beer.

Alcohol expenditure: undermining spending on other items

For those who have more money, the unit price of the alcohol they consume is phenomenal i.e. $100 for a tot of whisky. To bring this little maths exercise full circle, let’s take a look at the wages of the people and their disposable incomes.

The minimum wage for these five East African countries is shown below:


Test #Evidence

Monthly minimum wage

Taking a look at these figures is just astounding. Alcohol users simply are using up a tremendous amount of their incomes. This is a new twist to the adage ‘blame it on the alcohol’ because alcohol has to be blamed for stagnant development as well as uneducated and therefore unproductive children leading to entrenched poverty.

How can one afford adequate food, shelter, education let alone the cost of extracurricular activities for their families when alcohol takes precedence?

I sincerely hope that the current trend of decreasing sales of alcohol in East Africa continues, otherwise this region is doomed. Governments can of course really make a difference by putting in place alcohol policies with the three best buys – to eradicate poverty, prevent ill-health and diseases and unleash the huge potential for development in East Africa.

Speak Your Mind

  • Wycliff Kayoro

    What of the brewing industry? The barley farmers? To issue a blanket condemnation of people who drink alcohol yet we know the really causes of poverty in Africa is quite parochial.Yes it is true in some households excessive alcohol has led to unbelivable levels of poverty.but also in other households the alcohol industry has brought enomorous prosperity .Let as dwell on education, healthcare,Agriculture,security, infrastructure to facilitate trade and fight against corruption.

  • Maik Dünnbier

    This is not a condemnation of people who use alcohol. This is factual text about the connection between alcohol use and poverty. I fAfrica is to develop and unleash its huge potential, it needs to control and reduce alcohol use and prevent alcohol harm. The fact is: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), gender-based violence, communicable diseases are all alcohol-related and are a huge burden on (East) Africa. The global alcohol industry is taking its profits (to Europe and the USA) and leaving (East) Africa with the costs for the damage (economy, health, communities…). In the EU alcohol harm costs €156 billion every year, that is almost three times the sum that the alcohol industry “adds” to the economy. All those are facts.

  • Maik Dünnbier

    Check out this article from Tanzania, also relating to alcohol > http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/…/216…/-/75gkrl/-/index.html

  • Ali Mitau

    Alcohol consumption does not cause poverty in East Afrika. The systematic theft of minerals, deliberate exploitation of human resources, embezzlement, deliberate inflation of currency, price fixing of essential commodities by satanic cartels, phony conman leaders, systematic theft of natural resources by multinationals and a host of other evil practices are the cause of poverty in this region.

  • Maik Dünnbier

    Alcohol use causes poverty: it’s a risk factor in gender-based violence, in NCDs, in HIV/ Aids and TB, in eroding water and food security, a gateway into use of other drugs and addiction. And while we’re at it: among the multinationals you are mentioning is Big Alcohol aggressively targeting children, youth and women in Africa in its thirst for new markets and higher profits, leaving behind harm and costs to Africans. #Evidence http://www.iogt.org/life…/alcohol-policy/alcohol-industry/

  • Wycliff Kayoro

    Maik from your argumentative point of view your reasons cannot be conclusively convincing.Though to some extend micro economics mostly household levels but when it comes to macroeconomics you are not being fair to the brewing industry and people who take alcohol,Can you compare the level of alcohol East Africans take and Russians or Britons? The blogs you are refering as to have more to do with morals &levels of drinking than economics

  • Ali Mitau

    true wycliff. Poverty n hopelessness drive people to alcohol as a temporary escape.

    • Wycliff and Ali: it’s not about being fair to Big Alcohol – because stating the facts about the consequences of their operations is the only thing Brenda’s blog does. There’s no moral statement made. That means the fact remains that alcohol absorbs huge amounts of household income, instead of being invested in health care and school education. Alcohol causes poverty, also through its being a huge risk factor for NCDs, HIV/ Aids, gender-based violence.