Coke launches ‘Source Africa’ initiative to ensure ethical Kenyan tea production


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Tea pickers in Kenya (Neil Palmer/CIAT, Flickr)
Tea pickers in Kenya (Neil Palmer/CIAT, Flickr)

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Coke CEO Muhtar Kent insists Africa is the ‘most dynamic region in the world I can see right now’ as he unveils a further $5bn system investment there and ethical ingredient sourcing plans.

Speaking at the US-Africa Business Forum in New York yesterday, Kent was asked by US National Security Advisor Susan Rice about infrastructure developments on the continent.

These are necessary to sustain growth – in 2013 five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were Africa and consumer spending is expected to grow from $680m in 2008 to $2.2tn in 2030.

Kent told Rice and the audience (he features in the panel discussion that you can watch below) that Coke had been present in Africa since 1928. “Today if we fast forward what we see is the youngest continent, incredibly vibrant. Three years ago, I said that this would be the decade of Africa – the untold decade of Africa is starting.”

“We see that as a company that operates 147 factories and is one of the largest private employers on the continent – 80,000+ direct employees and 1m+ through our infrastructure,”​ he said.

Muhtar Kent’s ‘golden triangle of business’

“Back at the start of the decade we announced investments of $12bn, up from $5bn the previous decade. Today I’m proud to announce. We’re increasing that $12bn to $17bn now,”​ Kent added.

The money will spend the cash on manufacturing lines, cooling and distribution equipment and production, but also support sustainability initiatives for safe water, ethical sourcing, women’s economic empowerment, community well-being and operational efficiency improvements.

Discussing what he described as the “golden triangle of business”​, Kent said it relied on three vectors, the first of which is good infrastructure – power, roads, communications, etc.

This allows Vector 2, business infrastructure, which then transitions into social infrastructure (Vector 3), whereby companies can work with government, civil society and academia to improve education, entrepreneurial spirit, sanitation and water

Consistent and sustainable local ingredient sourcing

Alongside a beefed-up scheme that now aims to provide four million African homes with safe water and sanitation access by 2020, Coke has also signed a letter of intent to launch ‘Source Africa’, an initiative to secure more consistent and sustainable local ingredient sourcing for products.

Initially this will focus on sustainable mango and tea production in Kenya, mango and pineapple production in Nigeria and mango in Malawi, but could expand to focus on sustainable ingredient production in Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Despite the gaps of basic infrastructure and business infrastructure – there needs to be more foreign direct investment in Africa – I am extremely bullish about the future,”​ Kent said.

“It’s the youngest billion and the most dynamic region in the world that I can see right now.”

Kent said business could also help boost confidence among African youth: “15-20 years ago brand Africa was associated with war, strife, conflicts. Today there’s confidence coming.”

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