African region

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The World Health Organization (WHO) African Region (AFRO) covers 47 countries.1 Of these, 44 countries 2 are Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 20 countries have ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.3

Smoking in AFRO Region

Smoking prevalence in the AFRO region remains the lowest among all WHO regions (an average prevalence rate of 18.5% in 2020) and this rate is narrowing towards 11.2% in 2025. According to the AFRO region WHO office, countries in the African Region are experiencing an increasing rate of tobacco use. The fast growth of the population in Africa and an increase in consumer purchasing power is leading to larger and more accessible markets. 3 The Tobacco Atlas has also documented a significant increase in smoking prevalence in some African countries too, over the last few years, notably Congo, Lesotho, Niger and Mauritania. 4

As the Tobacco Atlas stated in 2018: “With its rapidly-growing populations and rising life expectancy, an increase in the number of smokers along with population aging is likely to make Africa suffer the most from future smoking-related burden.”5

Adult daily smoking prevalence

Country Prevalence
Algeria 14%
Benin 4%
Botswana 13%
Burkina Faso 9%
Burundi 7%
Cabo Verde 6%
Cameroon 5%
Chad 6%
Comoros 10%
Congo 10%
Côte d’Ivoire 9%
Democratic Republic of the Congo 9%
Eritrea 4%
Eswatini 6%
Ethiopia 3%
Gambia 9%
Ghana 2%
Guinea-Bissau 7%
Kenya 7%
Lesotho 18%
Liberia 6%
Madagascar 13%
Malawi 7%
Mali 6%
Mauritania 7%
Mauritius 15%
Mozambique 11%
Namibia 14%
Niger 4%
Nigeria 3%
Rwanda 9%
Sao Tome and Principe 4%
Senegal 5%
Seychelles 15%
Sierra Leone 12%
South Africa 17%
Togo 4%
Uganda 5%
United Republic of Tanzania 6%
Zambia 10%
Zimbabwe 8%

Source: World Health Organization report on the global tobacco epidemic 2021 6

Tobacco Production in AFRO

From 2012 to 2018, the area under tobacco cultivation decreased globally by 15.66%, whilst on the African continent it increased by 3.40%7. East Africa alone accounts for 90.43% of tobacco leaf production in Africa. 7 The member states of the WHO African Region account for 18.2% of the global area under tobacco cultivation and 11.4% of tobacco leaf growing in the world. The five top tobacco growing countries are: Zimbabwe (25.9% of total output), Zambia (16.4%), United Republic of Tanzania (14.4%), Malawi (13.3%) and Mozambique (12.9%).7 Other countries have small tobacco growing areas, usually for local consumption.

Who dominates the market?

In the AFRO region, the main production hubs are located in Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. In 2018, South Africa was the leading cigarette producer in the Afro region 8

Transnational Tobacco Companies (TTCs)

Major tobacco manufacturers include British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International (PMI), and Japan Tobacco International (JTI). For years, BAT has had the largest market share in two-thirds of countries across Africa, and a virtual monopoly in a number of these, including 51.7% in Uganda,78.8% in Kenya,71.4% in South Africa and 79% in Nigeria. 9

As of the fourth quarter 2021, BAT had production facilities in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, while PMI had such facilities in Algeria, Senegal and South Africa. JTI on the other hand, was present in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

Other than its representations in Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa, Imperial Brands had a more subtle presence in Africa, through affiliates in countries like Cote d’Ivoire (Société ivoirienne de tabac – SITAB), Central African Republic (Société centrafricaine de cigarettes – SOCACIG), Burkina Faso (Manufacture burkinabe de cigarettes – MABUCIG), Chad (Manufacture des cigarettes du Tchad), Senegal (Manufacture des tabacs de l’Ouest Africain – MTOA), Madagascar (Société anonyme de cigarettes mélia à Madagascar – SACIMEM SA) and Mali (Société nationale de tabacs et allumettes du Mali – SONATAM).10

 Other tobacco companies

Several countries, including Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Seychelles, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Cape Verde have privately own companies.8

Roadmap to tobacco control

Few African countries meet the standards of the individual WHO FCTC articles with regard to comprehensive implementation. Africa has lower rates of tobacco taxation, weaker smoke-free policies and fewer restrictions on tobacco advertising compared with other world regions.11 However, the WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2021 highlighted the progress on WHO FCTC implementation from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Madagascar, among others, especially on adopting smoke-free laws, large graphic pack warnings and introducing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including at point-of-sale. 6

Up to date information on tobacco control legislation around the world can be found on the Tobacco Control Laws website (published by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids). You can search litigation by country, tobacco control measure, or type of legal action. The website also contains analysis and assessment of FCTC compliance, and policy factsheets. Parties to the WHO FCTC submit regular FCTC COP reports detailing their progress in implementing the treaty, which are presented in the FCTC Implementation database. Further information on countries’ progress in implementing the WHO recommended MPOWER measures can be found in the WHO reports on the global tobacco epidemic, a serious of biennial reports detailing status and compliance.

Industry Interference

In Africa, the tobacco industry has a history of using several tactics to interfere in tobacco control and to delay legislation. Major interference tactics include amongst others, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, lobbying, litigation, the use of third parties, alleged bribery and espionage, and using arguments on illicit trade as well as unnecessary interactions with governments 12

Extensive research published in 2021 by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, a partner in STOP, in conjunction with BBC’s Panorama, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism as well as the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project uncovered multiple instances of British American Tobacco seeking to frustrate tobacco control measures and undermine competitors in Africa. For more details visit The BAT Files on TobaccoTactics.

Examples of tobacco industry interference include British American Tobacco (BAT) sending a letter to the Minister of Trade in Uganda in 2020,  to share inputs on the draft tobacco control regulations received from the said Minister’s office. However, this document was the official custody of the Ministry or Health, meaning that an informant at the Ministry of Trade had provided the document to BAT.13

In 2017, in Ethiopia, during the privatization process of National Tobacco Enterprise (NTE), an agreement was undertaken between Japan Tobacco International (JTI), the majority shareholder of the NTE and the Government, which allowed JTI to comment before any tobacco-related law was processed. Due to this, the tobacco industry has been able to exert pressure on public health laws. 14

Evidence also suggests that the tobacco industry has interfered with policy development in Nigeria: prior to the approval of the National Tobacco Control Regulation 2019, the industry submitted memoranda, made submissions and sent a delegation to the public hearing at the National Assembly.15


The tobacco industry also has a history of employing legal challenges to intimidate African governments and tobacco control stakeholders in order to either stall the adoption or implementation of a tobacco control policy, or to weaken it. In Kenya and Uganda, for example, British American Tobacco (BAT) has used litigation to attempt to block government attempts to adopt regulations that limit the harm caused by smoking. BAT and other multinational tobacco companies have also sent threatening letters to governments in Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso accusing them of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.16

 Third parties and tobacco industry allies.

The tobacco industry has used  front groups, allies and third parties to serve its interests. A study published in September 2021 in Nigeria17, Uganda18 and Zambia19 by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and local partners, documented a series of instances where tobacco multinationals used intermediaries to foster their efforts to undermine implementation of the WHO FCTC. For example, in June 2019, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Zambia (ZACCI) made a series of presentations to ministries opposing measures proposed in the Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill 2018. British American Tobacco is one of the corporate members of ZACCI. 19

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities

The tobacco industry uses CSR as a strategy to build support for policy positions that favour tobacco industry interests, weaken opposition and improve its reputation. There are several cases of tobacco industry CSR activities in the African continent, but the most recent wave of such activities are donations to “support” COVID-19 response efforts in Uganda20 and Zambia21 amongst other countries. For more examples on CSR during the COVID 19 Pandemic, go to the COVID-19 monitoring database on Tobacco Tactics.

Tobacco Tactics Resources

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  1. World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa, Countries, accessed September 2021
  2. World Health Organisation, Country profiles (Tobacco control), WHO, accessed October 2021
  3. abWorld Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa, Tobacco Control, accessed September 2021
  4. Tobacco Atlas, Countries, undated, accessed January 2022
  5. Tobacco Atlas, Deaths, undated, accessed January 2022
  6. abWorld Health Organization, WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2021, July 2021, accessed October 2021
  7. abcWorld Health Organisation, Status of tobacco production and trade in Africa, WHO, 2021
  8. abN. Vellios, H. Ross, A-M Perucic, Trends in cigarette demand and supply in Africa, PloS one vol. 13,8 e0202467, 18 August 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0202467
  9. Jackson, R. R, Rowell, A., & Gilmore, A. B., Unlawful Bribes? A documentary analysis showing British American Tobacco’s use of payments to secure policy and competitive advantage in Africa. UCSF: Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, 13 September 2021, accessed January 2022
  10. Imperial Brands, Annual Report and Accounts 2020
  11. N. Peer, Current strategies are inadequate to curb the rise of tobacco use in Africa, South African Medical Journal, 2018, Jun 26;108(7):551-556. doi: 10.7196/SAMJ.2018.v108i7.12978
  12. STOP, The tobacco industry is trying to block life-saving policies in the name of profit, even during a global crisis, accessed September 2021
  13. STOP, Uganda Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, accessed September 2021
  14. STOP, Ethiopia Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, accessed September 2021
  15. STOP, Nigeria Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, accessed September 2021
  16. Sarah Boseley, Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market, The Guardian, July 2017, accessed September 2021
  17. African Tobacco Control Alliance, The Big Tobacco Allies; How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Nigeria, 2021, accessed September 2021
  18. African Tobacco Control Alliance, The Big Tobacco Allies – How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Uganda, 2021, accessed September 2021
  19. abAfrican Tobacco Control Alliance, The Big Tobacco Allies – How tobacco companies use intermediaries to foster their corporate social responsibility initiatives and promote their image in Zambia, 2021, accessed September 2021
  20. New Vision, Rwandan tycoon donates sh250m towards COVID-19 fight, 2020, accessed September 2021
  21. Center for Tobacco Control in Africa, CTCA raises concern about tobacco industry’s involvement in Zambia’s COVID-19 efforts, CTCA, June 2020, accessed September 2021