Coca-Cola Co. once again brought Atlanta’s community together Wednesday to celebrate its employees of African descent, as well as efforts to improve lives on the continent while selling more Coke to its rising middle class. Nandos, a South Africa-based peri-peri chicken chain, is expanding globally and aiming to make inroads in Atlanta. Coke’s Africa Diaspora Network, a group of employees linked across the beverage giant’s global system, each year hosts “Africa Day” as a way to promote engagement with their homeland and highlight African leadership within the company’s ranks. For the first time this year, the event was held in the “back yard” behind the North Avenue global headquarters. Booths highlighted nonprofits working in Africa and food from the continent, including Nandos, a South Africa-based peri-peri chicken chain expanding globally and aiming to make inroads in Atlanta. Mbondafrica Dance Group got the crowd swaying to the beat of African drums.
Craig Williams, vice president in charge of the McDonald’s division, highlighted three “good-news” items from Coke’s work in Africa. He said more than half of the 1.2 million female entrepreneurs already assisted through the company’s5by20 initiative (5 million women helped by 2020) come from the Eurasia/Africa division, which encompasses 90-plus countries including the continent. The company’s Project Last Mile has raised $21 million in monetary and in-kind donations, allowing governments, health-care groups and other agencies to tap into the company’s extensive logistics network for the delivery of life-saving medicines in countries like Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana. And Africa has been a proving ground for Coke’s solar-powered EKOCENTER kiosks, which have become hubs for community life by providing safe water, phone charging stations, vaccine refrigeration, Coke distribution and more. Since 2013, more than 100 have been installed in places like Ethiopia,Kenya and now, Vietnam. To illustrate the need to work together to spur development, Mr. Williams cited an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Then, he gave his own reprisal: “Together is undefeated.”
The Amani Women Center, which had a booth at the event featuring elephants crafted from recycled Coke cans and stuffed giraffes made from repurposed fabrics, is an example of a local organization working with Africans here and back home. Johari Africa helps raise money for its sister nonprofit, Amani Women Center in Clarkston, Ga. Doris Mukangu, pictured here, is the president. The group’s Johari Africa-branded jewelry, toys and bags are made by artisans both in Africa and here in Clarkston, Ga. The organization provides branding and marketing advice to help improve sales, which raise money for Amani’s health and education workshops for refugee women in Clarkson, says Doris Mukangu, the Kenyan-born president of the organization. Ms. Mukangu, who came to the U.S. to study at Auburn University before moving to Atlanta, says Africa Day helped showcase her mission. “We’ve been able to let people know we exist and also to be aware that refugees actually exist right here in their backyard,” she told Global Atlanta.
Derreck Kayongo, CEO of Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights, said the organization’s hiring of a former refugee from Uganda shows that it’s trying to bridge the legacy of the civil rights movement in the South with African audiences. “We have not really understood the power of the civil rights movement until we link to it,” he said, thanking Coke for its support of the center and of Africa. He also pledged to lead the center with integrity and effectiveness to demonstrate to the world that Africans can lead, and he urged his listeners to be ambassadors for Africa in their own jobs. “We want to introduce a new legacy of good leadership,” he said before asking Coke employees to use the center to begin conversations on the value of diversity.
Other organizations recognized at the event included the Ghanaian Women’s Association of Georgia,The African SOUP, SOS Clean Water and the Center for Alternative Renewable Energy Technology and Training. Vuvu Manseka, a Democratic Republic of the Congo native who works in quality assurance and global licensing, helps organize the event every year. The African Diaspora Network event began eight years ago as a small internal gathering but has blossomed into an annual public forum highlighting the diversity of a company that has sought to have a positive impact as it has delved more deeply into African markets than arguably any other global firm.