readers know, I believe that a major reason that Africa is regarded as the dark
continent is that people look at it with their eyes closed.
just returned from a wonderful Bouchercon in Albany, New York, where I
connected with many friends and met new readers and writers. I can’t
recommend it more highly to attend a Bouchercon in the future. In
2014 it will be in Long Beach, California.
I pack my goods and chattels in Minneapolis and head to South Africa where I
will spend yet another summer. Sigh!
two brief pieces about ‘darkest’ Africa today.
first is about a Time magazine article that ran on August 9 titled “Africa’s Drinking Problem: Alcoholism on the
Rise as Beverage Multinationals Circle”.
this title, one would reasonably be left with the impression that Africa was a
continent of excessive drinking. But the article was, in reality,
full of sound and fury, but offered little other than
misinformation. How it was picked up by Time, I have no idea, except
perhaps it was an easy hit at the Dark Continent. It was written, as
far as I can make out, by an American living in Kenya.
very pleased to see the Mail & Guardian in South Africa respond to the
article in one of its own “Is Africa the
drunk continent? How Time Magazine ignored the data”. I’ll
summarize what it said.
World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the per capita consumption of
alcohol in Africa was the equivalent of 6.15 litres of pure alcohol per annum
for people 15 years or older. This is almost identical to the world
average of 6.13. As is so often the case, by ‘Africa’ the WHO
actually meant Black Africa, not all Africa – a typical distortion.
consumption is 12.18 and the Americas 8.67.
The Time article was particularly critical of South Africa and Kenya
being heavy drinking nations. Actually South Africa ranks 55th and
Kenya 118th in the world. Between 2003 and 2005,
according to the 2011 WHO report, South Africa’s adult per capita alcohol
consumption was 9.5 litres a year – much less than Europe’s - and Kenya’s was
4.1 litres a year. Moreover, in 2003, data showed that 65.2% of South Africans
were lifetime abstainers and 72.9% had not consumed alcohol in the last 12
months; 74.4% of Kenyans were lifetime abstainers and 85.4% had not consumed
alcohol in the last 12 months.
4. The WHO
estimated that in 2004, 57.3% of the "Africa region" (not counting
the Mediterranean Islamic countries) were lifetime abstainers, and 70.8%
reported not consuming alcohol in a year. By comparison, only 18.9% of
Europeans and 17.7% of the United States population were lifetime abstainers.
5. Of course all data can be interpreted in
many ways, so it is possible that episodic or binge drinking many be high in
some African countries, but to paint the continent as having alcoholism on the
rise is patently both wrong and damaging to the perception of the continent by
western Time readers. In fact, based on the data, it would have been
(marginally) more accurate to title the original article Africa: Continent of Teetotalers!
Both my thumbs
are down to the Time article.
The second item
I have for you this week is a follow up of my quiz a few weeks ago about what
readers knew of Africa. The few
reported results weren’t stellar!
To put Africa
in perspective, I offer the following graphic of the size of the continent in
relation to other countries. I believe this came from an episode of the
West Wing television series. You can click on the image to enlarge it.
You are probably surprised.
Stan - Thursday