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These 5 Countries are Known to be the Top Producers of Deadly Illicit Alcohol in Africa

It is not rare to find people huddled in shacks, sipping alcohol from cups and glasses into the wee hours of the morning all across Africa. Most of the time, this alcohol is illicit and some are known as chang’aa or ‘Kill me Quick’ in Kenya, bokha in Libya, and bojalwa in Botswana.

According to the World Health Organisation, half of all alcohol drunk in Africa is illegal. This comes with dire consequences to the community including deaths, poverty, health issues, loss of government revenue, among others.

A new report, Alcohol in the Economic Shadow by the  International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (Iard), lists countries where illicit alcohol is produced in large quantities.

According to the report, a number of factors contribute to the presence of unregulated and illicit alcohol. Top on the list is poverty since most of these illicit drinks are cheaper than the regulated ones. Other factors are affordability, availability and culture.

Scroll through for the countries that produce the most illicit alcohol in Africa.


Although Tanzania government banned illicit alcohol, the country still produces 51% of such drinks.  One of the popular yet illicit drinks is gongo, made from fermented then distilled scraps of ugali and maize: some brewers add mixing ethanol, formaldehyde and other poisons to speed up fermentation, leading to blindness in consumers.

In 2017, the government stepped up the fight against illicit alcohol by “launching an electronic stamp system to ensure that ethanol is registered and that suppliers sell only to registered alcoholic drinks producers.”


In fourth place is Cameroon, where illicit alcohol makes up 56% of all alcohol produced. One of the most popular illicit drink is odontol, which killed at least 27 people in November 2016.  Known as the poor man’s drink, it is one of the distilled drinks that make up the 90% of all illicit alcohol in the country.

According to the Iard report, such alcohol costs Cameroon $112 million.



Like Malawi, Uganda’s illicit alcohol makes up 61% of alcohol produced in the country, with 72% and 24% being distilled and fermented brews respectively.  Ugandan consumes about 110.6 million litres of alcohol a year, of which 67.7 million are illicit.  Some of the alcohol is produced locally including Kasese, lira lira, malua and ajono, while others are imported into the country.



Of all alcohol produced in Malawi, 61% is illicit, with distilled making up 76% and fermented 24%.  Local reports, however, indicate that the production and consumption of alcohol in the country cannot be measured since the data is not easy to obtain.

Even so, there are quite a number efforts by the government of Malawi to crack down on illegal and contraband alcohol, including the launch of a National Alcohol Policy and apprehending illicit alcohol traders.


In Mozambique, illicit alcohol makes up 66% of alcohol produced in the country.  Over the years, there have been reports of people dying from drinking illicit alcohol, most of which are produced at home. In January 2015, 79 people died and more than 200 suffered poisoning after drinking Phombe, made from sorghum, bran corn and sugar.

Some of the local brews are quite popular even in the neighbouring country of Zimbabwe.

Of the 66%, 31% is contraband, which the country has been cracking down to the point of shutting down an illicit drinks company in 2016.

Written by How Africa

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