Monday, 3 December 2007

19.47 litres of Kampala nightlife

1. Uganda 19.47
2. Luxembourg 17.54
3. Czech Republic 16.21
4. Ireland 14.45
5. Republic of Moldova 13.88

On first glance it's not an easy list to decipher. On what possible scale is Uganda the world's number one - beating European minnows Luxembourg into second place? Well the answer is not entirely a positive one. 19.47 actually refers to the annual litres per capita consumption of pure ethanol in the country. Uganda's position as the world's biggest drinkers is surprising due to the low income of many people, especially in rural areas, but is explained by the World Health Organisation's decision to include locally brewed drinks in their survey. This meant that crude waragi, tonto and the many other drinks that I can't spell which are served up in tiny local bars, pushed Uganda to the top of the list. Unsurprisingly alcoholism is a big problem in parts of the country.

I hesitate to make the link to Kampala's vibrant nightlife, which is more a symptom of the safe, friendly and outgoing nature of the city, rather than excessive alcohol consumption. It is certainly more civilised than a Saturday night in the West End. Indeed, Kampala at night should be one of the tourist board's biggest selling points for the country. Compared, for example, to Nairobi, where tourists take taxis for distances as short as 500m for fear of being robbed, people here can walk around the centre in the knowledge that they are in one of the safest African capitals. And better still they are never far from a cold beer.

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