Rumbidzai Mufuka and Phil Bolton for GlobalAtlanta
Visitors to the new Coca-Cola Museum, scheduled to open next summer, will learn about the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation’s HIV/AIDS initiatives and entrepreneurial programs on the continent.
Established in 2001, the foundation funds and coordinates the Coca-Cola Co.’s community initiatives in Africa.
According to Carole Wainaina, president of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which is headquartered in London, Africa accounts for more than 6 percent of the company’s revenues. South Africa is the ninth largest market for Coca-Cola in the world.
Specific programs that will be featured in the museum include a Spaza Shop, a small family-owned store popular in South Africa, HIV/AIDS awareness and education programs and the Community Watershed Partnership in Kenya, a program that provides clean water to primary schools.
The transcript of a GlobalAtlanta email interview with Ms. Wainaina in which she discusses the foundation’s activities in Africa and Coca-Cola’s response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic follows.
GlobalAtlanta: The Coca-Cola Co. is the largest private employer in Africa. Would you please describe the scope of its activities there?
Ms. Wainaina: The Coca-Cola Co. is Africa’s soft drink leader. Its beverages are marketed and distributed by bottling partners in over 160 plants serving 850 million consumers, in all 56 countries and territories. The Coca-Cola Co., with its 40 bottling partners, is the continent’s largest private sector employer, with nearly 60,000 African employees. Over the last five years alone, more than $600 million has been invested in Africa, much of this going into new plants, updated equipment and advanced employee training.
GlobalAtlanta: While many corporations working in the developing world, specifically Africa, have stated their support for the concept of social responsibility, the number of companies that translate that commitment into meaningful actions varies greatly. How does Coca-Cola Africa define social responsibility and how does it translate Coca-Cola’s commitment into meaningful actions that help the people in the countries where Coca-Cola is working?
Ms. Wainaina: We look at social responsibility as covering a number of areas that are integrally linked to our business operations – it is not a stand-alone activity: our workplace, our marketplace, our environment and our community. Under the community banner we consider our activities to be a form of corporate social investment – in other words, we aim to undertake, wherever possible, long-term, sustainable commitments that improve people’s lives.
To do this, we look at those issues which local people tell us are important to them (we might use surveys, or local engagement with community leaders to research this, for example) and then we develop an engagement model against which we create action plans, commit resources and then implement programs, in partnership with our bottlers.
We do not just write a check and then walk away. My role as president of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation ensures that we have a senior person dedicated to social responsibility, with a multi-million dollar budget that is matched by our bottling partners to ensure that our programs are rolled out across the continent. Running alongside all these areas are overall governance issues – ensuring that we act responsibly wherever we or our bottlers operate on the continent and this is a key focus of the whole Africa Group leadership team.
GlobalAtlanta: What are your favorite Coke programs in terms of engendering local entrepreneurship?
Ms. Wainaina: Every vendor in the Coke system has an important place in the supply chain. In South Africa, for example, ‘spaza shops’ are family-run businesses that operate from someone’s home or property and sell a variety of groceries, including, if they wish, our beverages. The advantage is that they operate in townships and in the heart of communities, in places which most large retailers would not find viable. However, they are an essential resource for local people to get basic provisions.
GlobalAtlanta: How important will Coke’s presence in Africa be to the company as a whole in the future? Do you think it will be one of the fastest growing markets in which it operates?
Ms. Wainaina: Africa currently accounts for more than 6% of the company’s global volumes and 6 percent of revenues and the trend is upwards. Many of Africa’s markets will be fast-growing, although those markets with the largest global potential are, as you would expect, China, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and India.
GlobalAtlanta: What do you think will be Coke’s best growth markets on the continent in coming years?
Ms. Wainaina: South Africa is already the ninth largest market for the company globally. We also are looking to expand our business in Nigeria – home to the largest number of Africans of any African country – an estimated 140 million people or 1 in 6 Africans. Furthermore, we have high expectations of other fast developing markets in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya), East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), West Africa (Ghana and Cameroon) and Southern Africa, (Angola).
GlobalAtlanta: Which of the many programs described in the document Africa Citizenship Report have been most successful in developing Coke’s presence as a local player? Have any of these programs received official recognition in terms of government awards, etc.?
Ms. Wainaina: Our HIV/AIDS work-place programs are among the largest private-sector programs of their kind in Africa covering some 60,000 employees and their spouses and dependants too. These programs cover “education and awareness,” “voluntary counseling and testing” and “prevention and treatment through the provision of anti-retroviral drugs.”
We also support a number of HIV/AIDS orphanages in several African countries and have worked with the World Bank and the “Corridor” project to support the Love-Life Caravan in five West African countries to bring a community of trained nurses and skilled performers to truck-drivers and communities along the 1,000 km Lagos, Nigeria to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, trucking route.
In 2004, our HIV campaign in Egypt won the Global Business Coalition for HIV/AIDS award for best community program and accolades from the Egyptian Ministry of Health, with whom we worked to implement the campaign.
In 2005, in South Africa, we were voted the company that “does the most to uplift my community” in The Sunday Times/Markinor Awards – as well as being voted “Coolest Brand”.
This year, we received an honorable mention from the PR Wire CSR Awards in Washington for our Ramadan campaign in Morocco and Egypt which worked with non-government organizations and our own associates to supply “iftar” (after sunset fast-break meals) to 1.7 million poor people in these countries. There are other examples, but these are some of the highlights.
GlobalAtlanta: Is there any light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the HIV/AIDS crisis and has Coke’s involvement in AIDS prevention been a model for other multinationals operating in Africa?
Ms. Wainaina: AIDS is now prevalent in many countries – and not just those in Africa. There are several aspects to tackling AIDS: education and awareness, voluntary counseling and testing, prevention and treatment… Where we feel we can add the most value is by helping to drive behavior change through campaigns around awareness and prevention and tackling stigma.
Why? Because our strengths are in marketing and distribution. In the talents of our employees: we know how to communicate messages particularly to youth and we know how to move product and we operate in all of Africa’s 56 countries and territories so we can reach people. It is also worth noting that we are a founder member in 2006 of The Corporate Alliance Against Malaria in Africa (every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria in Africa) and it is both treatable and preventable, so we are looking at some programs that can help reduce malaria in Africa.
GlobalAtlanta: Coke’s activities in Africa often provide a way of encouraging local entrepreneurship. Is this a global practice of Coke’s or have particular circumstances in Africa encouraged this trend?
Ms. Wainaina: We are a global company that operates locally. One of the secrets of our success is our ability to operate at the micro-level of economies though retailing our products through street vendors, push-cart and bicycle distributors, often supported by manual distribution centers in Kenya and Egypt which supply products on a street-by-street basis – especially in areas where trucks can’t go. We also teach our vendors basic business skills such as stock-taking and bookkeeping to ensure they can grow their business and thereby, our business.
GlobalAtlanta: Do you think that some of these entrepreneurial initiatives could provide a foundation for partnerships between Africans and Americans? Are you aware of any partnerships that have developed with some of the entrepreneurs, who learned business skills through any of your programs?
Ms. Wainaina: On the business side, one of the most enduring examples of entrepreneurial success that we have fostered as a system, is the initiative from SABCO, one of our bottling partners, with whom we developed manual distribution centers, which operate to distribute our beverages to small, local retailers and vendors operating at the micro-level of the economy.
Manual distribution centers enable us to reach urban areas where traditional distribution by truck is not possible. In addition, one of the new focuses of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation is to provide basic business training and ‘seed capital’ to new business ventures which are referred to us by in-country NGOs. For example, we currently have a partnership with Junior Achievement where we provide entrepreneurship training to high school students in six African countries. It follows the philosophy of ‘don’t give a man fish – but help him to fish!’
GlobalAtlanta: While Coca-Cola’s historic attachment to Atlanta and its extensive involvement in city projects and organizations of all sorts, the amplitude of its international activities is not as widely known here. Will the new Coca-Cola museum, which will be located near the city’s aquarium, be a good venue, in your opinion, to highlight the company’s extensive programs around the world?
Ms. Wainaina: Yes! The new World of Coca-Cola will be an ideal location to bring to light some of the corporate responsibility initiatives the Coca-Cola Co. is involved in around the world and production on an exhibit to showcase several of these initiatives is currently in progress.
GlobalAtlanta: Have you thought about how Coke’s presence in Africa could be highlighted at the new museum and what aspects of that presence should be highlighted?
Ms. Wainaina: Coca-Cola’s corporate responsibility efforts in Africa will be portrayed in the corporate responsibility exhibit at the new World of Coca-Cola; specific programs that will be featured include Spaza Shops, HIV/AIDS awareness and education, and the Community Watershed Partnership in Kenya. Not limited to corporate responsibility initiatives, the continent of Africa will be featured widely throughout the entire attraction.
GlobalAtlanta: How would you demonstrate the company’s success in selling a non-essential product?
Ms. Wainaina: There are many examples of how Coke, a non-essential product, has found success in Africa, but perhaps the best example is seen in the broad success of Spaza Shops. Spaza Shops provide entrepreneurs with a sound model for setting up stable businesses in their local communities. The corporate responsibility exhibit at the new World of Coke will feature a Spaza Shop owner who will describe this success.
GlobalAtlanta: Will you be visiting Atlanta any time soon?
Ms. Wainaina: I look forward to visiting Atlanta during the next few months – but nothing beats my beloved Kenya!