These African Nations Have Weight Problems

By Lillian Mutiso

Obesity is a health condition where a person has high levels of cholesterol, sugar or salt and insufficient nutrients. Poor dieting regimes, genetics or lack of physical exercises are major causes of the condition.

In Africa, obesity has been on the rise in recent years due to a rapidly growing urban population across the continent. The continent accounts for nearly 25 percent of the global population of 41 million children under five years who are obese.

Obesity is associated with diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, hypertension and several types of cancer.

Below are 12 African countries with the highest rates of obese people.

South Africa


It is the second biggest economy in Africa. South Africa has the highest population considered obese or overweight. About 42 percent of the women and one-third of the total male population are overweight.  One in every four girls and one in every five boys are also obese.



It is found in North Africa and one of the most obese nations globally. Almost 70 percent of the population is obese. Women are the most affected with 48 percent while only 22 percent of men are obese.



It is the biggest economy in East Africa. Kenya has a population of 42.7 million people. About 27 percent of its men and women are obese. Over 33 percent of its women are overweight. In urban areas, nearly 50 percent of the women aged between 19-49 years are obese.  In children below five years of age, five percent of the total population is obese.



It is the second largest economy in East Africa. It has a population of 52 million people. About 10 million Tanzanians are either obese or overweight. Women are more prone to the health ailment, with 34 percent overweight and 11 percent are obese while only 17 percent of the men are overweight.



The nation is found in North Africa. It is one of Africa’s biggest oil-producers. Obesity is a major problem amongst the youth. About 42 percent of the girls are either obese or overweight while 33 percent of the boys are obese.



It is an archipelago of 115 islands off the Indian Ocean with a population of 87,400 people. About 43 percent of its female population is considered obese while 74 percent are overweight. About 21 percent of the men are obese and 64 percent are overweight.



It is found in North Africa. Tunisia has a population of 10.7 million people. Obesity has become a national epidemic and the number of obese people has doubled since 1995. About half of the women are obese, while one in every three men is obese. About 16 percent of the children are also obese.


obese man, sauna
obese man, sauna

It is one of the poorest nations in West Africa. Across the country, obesity is seen as sign of beauty. Young girls are force-fed and taken to ‘fattening camps’ in order to attract men for marriage. Women are encouraged to be obese and those considered skinny draw public mockery. At least 20 percent of the women are obese.



It is a monarch in Southern Africa. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, with about 210,000 people out of 1.2 million infected. About 55 percent of the women are either or overweight. The high poverty rate has fueled the belief that obese people are healthy and the condition helps them survive the constant famines that perennially hit the tiny nation.



It is found in the African Maghreb (Arab West). Morocco has a population of 32.6 million people. About 20 percent of the population is obese. Women are the most affected, with 63 percent of total number of obese people. In most parts of the Maghreb nation, ‘fatness’ is considered a sign of beauty, fertility and most men prefer women who are considered overweight.



It is an Indian Ocean archipelago. It is one of the most economically and political stable nations in Africa, with a population of 1.3 million people. The island has a national obesity prevalence of 19.1 percent. This was an increase from 16 percent in 2009.



It is found in East Africa. Rwanda has a population of 11.2 million people and is one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Obesity has increased by 10 percent in the last 10 years.  About 21 percent of the women in the tiny country are obese


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