For example, the ups and downs during Kenya’s post-election violence this year could be traced in sales of Coke in Nairobi’s slums and in western Kenya’s villages.
Coca-Cola is the largest private-sector employer in Africa. A study has suggested that 1 percent of South Africa’s economy is in some way related to the distribution and sale of Coke.
The company expects sales in Africa to grow by an annual 10 to 13 percent over the next few years, outstripping economic growth. When violence breaks out in Africa, Coke sales go down. When things are more prosperous, their sales go up. That Coca-Cola has become a bellwether on a continent that is home to millions of starving people is unsettling, to say the least.
Yet, Coca-Cola boasts that they are the largest private-sector employer in Africa. And they’ve just invested $50 million in a new bottling plant, and another $10 million in new offices, for the region. Isn’t this a positive thing for the struggling economy?
For some reason, a wolf in sheep’s clothing comes to mind.
Coca-Cola and other bottling plants like Pepsi are well known for running water wells dry and contaminating whatever water is left. Some of the plants draw from 800,000 to 1.5 million liters of water from common groundwater resources daily. Other water is supplied to Coca-Cola via water trucks that extract water from neighboring villages.
Meanwhile, the average wage in many parts of Africa is less than $1 a day, and this family from Chad spent just $1.23 on food to feed their family for a week. So 20-30 cents for a Coke is not so cheap after all.
Infiltrating Africa with Coke -- “Its system of distribution, which moves the sugary drink from bottling plants deep into slums and the bush a few crates at a time,” according to the Economist -- is the goal for Coca-Cola’s marketers, but really does the world need more soda plants?
Soda: The World’s Favorite Beverage?
A major percentage of the world’s population already drinks soda, but perhaps nowhere are the perils of this behavior more obvious than in the United States.
As of 2005, white bread was dethroned as the number one source of calories in the American diet, being replaced by soft drinks. During the past half-century, the number of carbonated soft-drink drinkers rose more than 450 percent and jumped from 11 gallons in 1946 to 49 gallons in the year 2000. Currently, the average American drinks more than 60 gallons of soft drinks each year.
During this time, obesity rates have skyrocketed. An epidemic of children are coming down with “adult” diabetes. And kids are being diagnosed with behavioral problems like ADHD at alarming rates.
How could there NOT be a connection?
One can of Coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. This is 100 percent of your recommended daily intake (which is way too high in my opinion anyway). The only reason you don’t vomit as a result of the overwhelming sweetness is because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor.
Soon after downing even one of these sickeningly sweet beverages, your blood sugar spikes, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.
So for people in Africa to see Coke as a good thing is a very sad reality. If it becomes as popular there as it has in much of the rest of the world, they are in for the same consequences that are right now occurring in the United States.
Drinking soda is one American tradition that definitely should not be shared with the rest of the world. But I doubt Coca-Cola will ever see it that way.