Coca-Cola flies the flag in Afghanistan

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coca-cola

Coca-Cola has returned to war-torn Afghanistan with a gleaming $25m
factory, calling the country a 'missing link' in its international

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai opened the 60,000sq-metre Coca-Cola bottling plant in capital city Kabul, more than a decade after civil war forced the soft drinks group out of the country.

It is a controversial and risky move for Coca-Cola at a time when violence directed against NATO forces in the country, including American soldiers, appears in danger of spiralling out of control.

Coca-Cola's Kabul plant will be operated under franchise by local businessman Habib Gulzar, and is expected to focus on core carbonated soft drink brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite. Bottled water could be added in the future.

Selcuk Erden, president of Coca-Cola's Southern Eurasia division, which will oversee Afghanistan, said: "Afghanistan was the missing link in our geography and we were following this country very carefully."

The group said the country had the potential to be a strong emerging market for its drinks.

Critics have suggested Coca-Cola is not what Afghans really need right now.

Afghanistan is ranked as the fifth poorest country in the world by the United Nations. "The depth of poverty in Afghanistan is reflected consistently in all human development indicators, revealing a mosaic of a nation in need of sustained assistance,"​ a recent UN development report says.

Both Coca-Cola and Afghan president Karzai said the soft drink firm's return to the country would generate significant employment. "The Coca-Cola company is committed to the economic development of Afghanistan,"​ said Selcuk Erden.

Karzai said the investment was "an important step forward to economic growth, self-sufficiency and a better future for Afghanistan"​.

Still, the security threat to Coca-Cola will be high.

Recent weeks have seen the worst violence in the country since international forces, led by America, invaded and toppled the ruling Taleban regime there in late 2001.

Resurgent Taleban militants may target Coca-Cola because of the firm's worldwide image as an unofficial ambassador for the American way of life - everything the Taleban leaders claim to stand against.

The previous Coke factory in Afghanistan was destroyed by artillery fire in the country's civil war, which brought the Taleban to power in 1996.

Related topics: Carlsberg, Markets

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