There are few things in this world that I crave. When I moved overseas I knew that I would have to do without the basic amenities and foods that I’d grown used to in America however, when I left Africa I didn’t know that I’d be leaving behind one of the few things I crave, Coca-Cola. Although Coca-Cola is one of the few truly American products that has become a global phenomenon I don’t drink American Coca-Cola products because nutrasweet/aspartame tastes like cancer and sadness. However, Coca-Cola, produced in South Africa, remains a throw back to the original Coca-Cola sweetened with cane sugar and bottled in classic glass bottles.
When I moved back to Texas earlier this year, I knew that I would no longer enjoy the pleasures of an ice-cold Coke but resigned myself to the silver lining of saving myself 150 calories a day. Little did I know that the Coca-Cola
gods polar bears were listening to my prayers and the pure sweet goodness of glass bottled Coca-Cola dropped from the sky appeared at my local Costco.
While I admittedly love Coca-Cola’s African product I have to ask at what cost does Coca-Cola do business in Africa?
-Yes, they do promote corporate social investment and implement community initiatives in Africa.
-Yes, they maintain a water initiative to provide clean water sources, hygiene education, and sanitation services across Africa.
-Yes, they support HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention, access to education, job creation, and humanitarian assistance.
But is that enough or should we expect more? Coca-Cola currently operates its Southern Africa base in Swaziland, which is wrestling with economic crisis and protests to overturn the monarchy in favor of democracy. Swaziland appeals to Coca-Cola as it is Africa’s third-largest sugar producer and they court King Mswati with annual pilgrimages to Coke’s global headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The King, whose fortune is built on partnerships with multi-national corporations, is known to have a personal fortune of more than $200 million while 70% of his subjects live on less than a dollar a day, more than 40% of the workforce are unemployed, and more than 25% of the population lives with HIV/AIDS.
Where does corporate responsibility end and politics begin? Should Coca-Cola be in business with a despot or is this the cost of doing business in Africa? Where does personal responsibility begin and business ethics end?