Coca-Cola Co. has been present in Africa since 1929, but at no point before now has the Atlanta-based beverage giant been so invested in the continent’s continued growth from the ground up.
That was the message of newly installed CEO James Quincey to Coke employees and supporters celebrating Africa Day a day early this week on May 24.
Each year, May 25 is set aside to celebrate the founding of the precursor organization to the African Union, launched in 1963. Coke’s Africa Diaspora Network, a group of African-origin employees spread throughout the company, put a local spin on the international event for the ninth straight year.
Mr. Quincey didn’t attend, but he sent a video message assuring his support.
“Today, we believe in the bright promise of Africa, and we’re investing strongly in our brands, our bottling system and the communities across the continent,” the new CEO said in the message.
He also underscored that Africa is top of mind for the company. Coke’s recent investments Africa’s social infrastructure include EKOCENTER kiosks that serve as charging stations, Wi-Fi centers and convenience stores in rural areas, the 5by20 initiative to empower 5 million African female entrepreneurs and an innovative partnership with global health organizations to distribute vital pharmaceuticals through its extensive logistics network.
“As we celebrate Africa Day, we’ve got a really great opportunity to spotlight Africa’s growing importance in the global economy and the significant cultural contributions of its people,” Mr. Quincey said. “Diversity is one of Coca-Cola’s foundational strengths, and this day also gives us a chance to toast the wide diversity of people who are helping us strengthen our brands and build our business in a fast-changing consumer marketplace.”
Vuvu Manseka, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was key to creating the event and provided introductory remarks. He continues to play an organizational role as chair of the diaspora network. The program evolves each year and often features African food, dance or music performances.
“This year, we instead had trivia on general knowledge of Africa and Coca-Cola initiatives (Ekocenter, RAIN, 5 By 20) in local communities in Africa,” Mr. Manseka said. “The aim for that was to make the event more informative and interactive.”
In the past, speakers have been a major part of the event. Last year’s event, held in the sunny courtyard of Coke’s Atlanta headquarters, included an address from Derreck Kayongo, a former refugee and now the CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The year before, singer Akon talked about his solar initiative in Africa.
In attendance this year, as at previous events, were members of local government, academia and Coke’s senior leadership. Vince Farley, honorary consul of Mali, was present. Andrew Davis, who leads the company’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence, provided opening remarks. Actor Lamman Rucker was also in attendance, taking photos with some employees dressed in traditional clothing from their countries.