Curbing Alcohol Abuse in Kenya: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Government Measures and Proposed Solutions

  • 26 Apr 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Kennedy Osore

Alcohol abuse is a prevalent issue in Kenya, and the government has implemented various measures to tackle it. These measures comprise policies, programmes, and regulations to reduce alcohol abuse, enhance treatment and rehabilitation, and promote responsible drinking habits. This article analyses the government’s efforts to combat alcohol abuse, evaluates their effectiveness, and proposes ways to enhance the current situation.

According to the Rapid Situation Assessment of Drugs and Substance Abuse in Kenya 2017 survey report conducted by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the country. The data pertaining to different age groups indicates that 12.2% of survey participants aged between 15 – 65 years were currently consuming alcohol. 

Of the figures for respondents aged 25-35 years, 15.1% were consuming alcohol, while 5.6% of respondents aged between 15-24 years and only 0.9% of respondents aged between 10-19 years were found to be currently using alcohol. From the findings, Nairobi, Eastern, Western and Rift Valley regions had continued to record the highest current prevalence of alcohol usage The survey report also highlights the negative effects of alcohol abuse, including health problems, violence, and reduced productivity.

To address the problem of alcohol abuse, the government has implemented several measures, including the following:

  • The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010, regulates the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Kenya. It prohibits selling alcohol to individuals under the age of 18, imposes limitations on the hours during which alcohol can be sold, and mandates that alcohol manufacturers include health warnings on their products.
  • To discourage excessive alcohol consumption, the government has raised excise taxes on beer, spirits, and wines. Additionally, tax increases have been implemented to generate revenue for the government.
  • The government has launched several public awareness campaigns through NACADA to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol abuse and promote responsible drinking habits. These campaigns utilize various media channels such as TV, radio, billboards, and social media.
  • The government has set up multiple treatment and rehabilitation centres across the country to assist people who are grappling with alcohol addiction. These facilities offer counseling, medical assistance, and other forms of support to aid individuals in overcoming alcohol abuse.

Despite these measures, the prevalence of alcohol abuse in Kenya remains high, and it is unclear whether the government’s efforts have been successful in addressing the issue. The NACADA report shows that the proportion of Kenyans who consume alcohol in harmful quantities has increased from 4.4% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2017. The report also notes that there is a high level of unregulated alcohol production and sale in the country, which undermines the effectiveness of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act.

On 14th April 2023, a meeting was held in Nyeri, Kenya, to discuss and develop solutions to address the growing problem of alcohol and substance abuse (ADA) in the region. Attendees included Cabinet and Principal Secretaries, National Government Administrative Officers, National Police Service leadership, governors, senators, and Members of Parliament of the region, and Regional County and Sub-county Security Committees. The Forum aimed to address the root causes and impact of the growing disaster with the aim of proffering solutions, which will be taken up to inform a major policy position of the government. 

The Forum resolved and recommended a number of measures to tackle the issue, including inter-governmental cooperation and coordination, amendments to national and county legal provisions on alcohol and drug control, coordinated and multi-disciplinary licensing regimes of alcoholic outlets, enforcement and compliance, community participation in prevention of ADA, promotion of research on ADA both at the national and county level, the establishment of county treatment and rehabilitation centers, decentralization of government agencies dealing with ADA at the regional level, creation and maintenance of a database for alcohol and drug offences, and public awareness and advocacy.

Aside from the interventions already proposed, the government must take more definitive steps to address alcohol abuse. Some of the crucial additional measures that can be implemented are:

  1. Strengthening enforcement of existing laws and regulations governing the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol to reduce access to illicit brews, counterfeit and contraband alcohol, and low-priced alcoholic drinks.
  2. Investing in research and monitoring to provide up-to-date data on the prevalence, trends, and patterns of alcohol use and abuse in the country and to inform policy and decision-making.
  3. Promoting the development and implementation of evidence-based interventions, including screening and brief interventions for individuals with alcohol use disorders, as well as treatment and rehabilitation programmes for individuals with severe alcohol dependence.
  4. Increasing public awareness and education about the dangers of alcohol abuse and the importance of responsible drinking through public campaigns, community-based programmes, and school-based education.

Various measures have been implemented by the government to address the serious challenge of alcohol abuse in the country. However, the effectiveness of these interventions is still in question, as evidenced by the increasing prevalence of harmful alcohol consumption. The recent meeting in Nyeri, which recommended a range of measures to address the problem, is a step in the right direction. Additional steps that could be taken include strengthening enforcement, investing in research and monitoring, promoting evidence-based interventions, and increasing public awareness and education. Collaborative efforts between the government and all relevant stakeholders must remain a top priority in the ongoing battle against alcohol abuse.