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No, Razzmatazz - SA isn’t the world’s 10th ‘most drunkard nation’

This article is more than 6 years old

South Africa’s police minister - nicknamed Razzmatazz - released the country’s annual crime statistics last week.

During his speech, Minister Fikile Mbalula highlighted three issues he thought were contributing to the high crime rate in South Africa: alcohol abuse, drug abuse and the availability of firearms.

“[The] minister of health informed me that we are the 10th most drunkard nation in the world,” Mbalula noted.

‘We couldn't trace the source of the claim’

But South Africa’s department of health was confused.

“We couldn't trace the source of the claim. Even in Africa, South Africa does not feature in the top 10,” department spokesperson, Popo Maja told Africa Check.

In order to work out how much people in a country drink, the World Health Organisation analyses alcohol production, import, export and sales statistics. They also estimate unrecorded alcohol intake, such as home brews, which is not taxed and controlled by government.

The final figure they estimate is how much “pure alcohol” a country consumes each year. This is then divided by the number of people older than 15 in a country to get a figure per person (or per capita).

What is pure alcohol?

The percentage of alcohol marked on the side of a drink tells you how much of that drink is pure alcohol. So if you drink a 750 ml quart of beer which has an alcohol content of 5.5%, you will take in 41.3 ml of pure alcohol. In order to drink a litre of pure alcohol, you’d have to knock back 24 quarts of beer!

The WHO’s most recent data on total pure alcohol consumption per person is for 2008 to 2010.

It shows that on average, South Africans older than 15 drank 11 litres of pure alcohol per year each. This was the highest in Africa and more than double the average for 53 African countries.

Globally, South Africa was tied in 30th place with Belgium for its total alcohol consumption. The country with the highest alcohol consumption was Belarus - where the average person drinks a staggering 17.5 litres of pure alcohol every year. That’s equal to 420 quarts of beer every year!

South Africa’s police minister was wrong when he claimed that the country is the “10th most drunkard nation in the world”. The latest data from the WHO shows that South Africa is ranked 30th for it’s alcohol consumption.

And it turns out the department of health is wrong too. South Africa ranks first in Africa for average alcohol consumption per person. - Ina Skosana & Kate Wilkinson (02/11/2017)


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