Coca-Cola Joins United Nations' Fight against AIDS in Africa
*Coca-Cola Joins United Nations' Fight against AIDS in Africa
By Don Melvin, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
Jun. 20-The United Nations program dedicated to stemming the spread
of AIDS around the world will announce in Geneva today that it has a
new partner in the fight against AIDS in Africa, Coca-Cola, the con-
tinent's largest private sector employer.
At the heart of the soft drink giant's strategy is the belief that if
it can deliver Cokes all across Africa, not to mention its fabled ad-
vertising reach, it also can distribute pamphlets, equipment and in-
formation to help prevent AIDS.
The disease has wreaked greater devastation on Africa than on any
other continent. Of the world's estimated 36 million people with
AIDS, 26 million, more than 70 percent, are in Africa. Last year in
sub-Saharan Africa, a million people died of the disease.
The non-profit Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which was created in Feb-
ruary, will co-ordinate the effort with the Joint United Nations Pro-
gram on HIV/AIDS, which is known as UNAIDS. The program brings to-
gether seven different U.N. agencies in an effort to prevent new in-
fections and care for people already affected.
"The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation brings substantial resources to the
international battle against AIDS," said Peter Piot, the executive
director of UNAIDS.
"Coca-Cola Africa's special strength is its ability to bring its un-
rivaled marketing and logistics expertise to respond to the epidemic,
from the community to the highest political level."
A spokesman for Coca-Cola Africa declined Tuesday to put a dollar
figure on Coca-Cola's three-year partnership with the United Nations.
Much of the work will involve the use of Coke's warehouses, trucks,
delivery networks, logistical expertise and marketing know-how.
"It's basically impossible to quantify," Robert Lindsay, vice presi-
dent of public affairs for Coca-Cola's Africa Group, said in a tele-
phone interview from London.
Coca-Cola and its bottlers have a presence in every African country
but Libya and Sudan. Together, Coke and its bottlers employ 100,000
people on the continent, Lindsay said.
Alexander Cummings, president of the Coca-Cola Africa Group, said the
company is proud to join the fight against AIDS.
"Coca-Cola is completely committed to the future of the African con-
tinent, its economy, people, communities and health," Cummings said.
"We will do all that we can to enable Africans to reach their full
Today's announcement comes amid increasing global recognition of the
severity of the epidemic in Africa and the resources that will be
needed to contain it.
In April, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed raising $7 bil-
lion to $10 billion a year to create a global fund to fight AIDS.
On Tuesday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $100 mil-
lion to an international health fund to fight AIDS and called on
European Union nations and other countries to make further contribu-
tions. Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and one of the world's
The long-time in-house champion of involving the Coca-Cola Co. in the
fight against AIDS has been Carl Ware, executive vice president for
global public affairs, Lindsay said. Ware, who became the company's
highest-ranking black executive last year, is a former president of
Coca-Cola's Africa Group and a former president of the Atlanta City
Two weeks ago in Washington, Coca-Cola hosted a U.S. Chamber of Com-
merce meeting of corporate leaders at which Annan spoke.
According to Ware, Annan's "urgent call to action for private indus-
try to step up its efforts" to fight AIDS prompted the company to
speed up its announcement of the partnership with the United Nations.
Lindsay said Coca-Cola in Africa "will deploy its unique infrastruc-
ture and presence in local communities to support local prevention,
education and treatment programs."
As an example, he said, representatives of Coke and its bottler in
Zambia will provide assistance to the Family Health Trust, an educa-
tion project that works with young people in more than 2,500 anti-
AIDS clubs throughout the country. Coca-Cola in Zambia will store
education materials at its facilities in Lusaka, the capital, and as-
sist in their distribution to 72 district education officers country-
wide, Lindsay said.
And in Nigeria, Coca-Cola will provide marketing help in developing
materials to increase awareness of national programs, assist in the
printing and distribution of 10,000 pamphlets, and provide expertise
in logistics and help in distributing testing kits in every state in
Coca-Cola Africa also will provide marketing expertise to develop in-
formation campaigns for UNAIDS and international and local partners
The Coca-Cola system in Africa will try to lead by example, as well,
developing "leading-edge workplace policies," Lindsay said. The com-
pany will cover all medical costs of employees with AIDS and will not
test any job applicants for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Last week, the Coca-Cola Co. settled a class-action racial discrimi-
nation suit in the United States for $192.5 million. Lindsay said the
Africa initiative was not related to the lawsuit.
"Absolutely not. This has absolutely nothing to do with it in any
form," said Lindsay, a native of Ghana. "To us in Africa, this is
something we just want to do because we have to do it."
Copyright (c) 2001 Knight-Ridder / Tribune Business News Received by
News Edge Insight: 06/20/2001 09:38:36
Senior Project Associate CCMC
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