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Botswana drinking rate fell before alcohol levy

Staff Writer
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicates that the rate of drinking in Botswana was already declining before the alcohol levy was introduced in 2008. The report says that Botswana's alcohol consumption went down in a five-year period from 2000-2005.

Published in 2011, the report shows that consumption has been falling in other African countries like Burundi, Gabon, Lesotho, Madagascar and Swaziland. Gabon drinks 5-6 litres of beer per person daily, against Botswana's 2-2.5 litres. Burundi's rate decreased from 0.6 litres per person (for local brews) to 0.5 litres per person. In Swaziland, the figures came down five litres to three litres of traditional brews and seven litres to five for spirits.

In Botswana, the report shows that the all time high consumption of alcohol was recorded in 2002 when the country experienced a sharp rise in drinking spirits to six litres per person. However, the high rate of consumption of spirits decreased to four litres per person by 2005.   Most interestingly is the observation by the WHO report that the spirits in Botswana are consumed by only 1% of the alcohol drinking population. The report says beer drinkers constitute 57% of alcohol consumers in Botswana. The consumption of other alcoholic beverages (traditional brews) remained stable in Botswana at two litres per person throughout the five-year estimate by the WHO. About 42% of alcohol consumers in Botswana drink home made brews.

Wine consumption in Botswana in the five-year period (2000-2005) remained at below 1 litre per person. Wine is taken by 1% of the alcohol consuming population. The WHO report says that cases of alcohol related disorders are rare in Botswana, ranging from 0.19% in females to 1.87% in males. Among those who do not take alcohol, women constitute 65.5% while 34.4% are men.

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Of those who can go for a year without drinking, women make up 85% and men 54.3%. 

Perhaps the miracle story in alcohol consumption in Africa is Burundi. Without any restrictions on national legal minimum drinking age, no time limits for alcohol sales, no legally binding laws on advertising, alcohol consumption in Burundi is on the decline. The highest recorded in 2000 was 0.6 litres of traditional brews per person and by 2005 the figure fell slightly to 0.5 litres.   Traditional brews are a hit in Burundi. They are consumed by 85% of alcohol drinkers according to the report. The spirits, accounting for one percent of alcohol consumers had a similar performance as traditional beverages in Burundi. Interestingly Burundi's maximum level of alcohol in the blood when driving is higher than Botswana at 0.10.

Botswana's permitted alcohol blood level while driving is 0.08. Kenya, with no blood alcohol limits for drivers has incredibly low alcohol consumption of below 1 litre per person for traditional brews, beer, wines and a higher proportion for spirits (1-2 litres per person) in the five-year estimate.

The Central African Republic's (CAR) alcohol consumption rate is also incredibly low at a stable 1.4 litres for traditional brews, 1.7 litres-1.5 litres for spirits and 0.5-0.1 litre for beer despite not having set minimum drinking age, no time restrictions for sales of alcohol, no laws governing blood alcohol content while driving, or laws restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorships. However a similar system is not bearing the same results in Guinea Bissau.



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