For over six decades, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa-Ethiopia (CCBA-Ethiopia), the subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, has grown with Ethiopia passing through thick and thin. The Company is one of the very few private companies that have a long history in Ethiopia’s Economy. Beyond its economic contribution, CCBA-Ethiopia is now striving to build sustainable growth introducing community initiatives focus on water replenishment, economic inclusion, and creating a world without waste. We sat down with Mr. Nigus Alemu, CCBA-Ethiopia’s Legal Counsel, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Director to learn more about the economic and social contributions of his Company.
Would you kindly provide us with a brief overview of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa-Ethiopia?
Nigus Alemu: We have been bottling Coca-Cola products in Ethiopia, since 1959. Our first Coca-Cola product bottling factory was constructed in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, Abinet area. Just five years later we opened our second plant in Dire Dawa. In 2016 the Bahir Dar green field plant was constructed. Recently, we opened our fourth factory at Sebeta with an investment of more than $100 million, in addition to acquiring Ambo mineral water. Accordingly, we are currently bottling eight brands as we continue to refresh Ethiopia every day and strive to create a better tomorrow for all of us.
What has CCBA-Ethiopia done for the community so far?
Nigus Alemu: As a Coca-Cola system in Ethiopia, we consider the opportunity to be more than just financial gain. As we expand, we are using our investments to build a better-shared future for our employees and the communities we serve. That’s why I can state with pride that we are renowned for our water replenishment, plastic collection and recycling initiatives, and economic inclusion sustainability efforts.
Whereas we use plastic for our products, we collect back what we distributed and strive to give the future generations, a clean Ethiopia. Having stated that, our World Without Waste project has set an ambitious target of recycling 100% of plastic by 2030.
In 2021, we have introduced the PET Recycling Community Organization (PETCO) in Ethiopia with an initial contribution of $150, 000. This project benefited over 260 women who were leading their life by selling fuel wood.
Over the past few years, we established 24 PET collecting centers and delivered training to more than 15,000 female PET collectors. In addition, we have a PET recycling facility in Ambo and Sebeta cities that provided employment opportunities for job-seeking youth and women.
In terms of our initiatives for economic inclusion, we have partnered with the Minister of Labor and Skills to launch a 20 million Birr women and youth economic inclusion project in April 2021 that will support 600 women returnees in 11 cities across Ethiopia by giving them access to skill-building, 150 kiosks, and in-kind initial capital. Last month, we handed over 75 of these kiosks benefiting over 300 women returnees.
To reach young entrepreneurs we also launched a Sumuni APP, the first web and app-based due diligence platform that connects potential investors and entrepreneurs with startups. This platform now supports over 30 startups to build their network and connect them to potential funders.
Moreover, because we value education and believe in building in the future generation, we have concentrated on a variety of community projects aimed at teaching children in the areas where we do business. To mention a few, we have built two modern school blocks in Sebeta, at a total cost of $236,000, and at Shimbit Elementary School in Bahir Dar, at a total cost of $220,000 with each benefiting 1,600 students. Additionally, a G+1 School in Ambo with 12 Classrooms recently opened for $256,410, serving more than 1,200 students. Besides, we have invested $31,000 in a scholarship program for deserving university students from low-income families, and for the past 12 years, we have run a Graduate in Training (GIT) program in our company that enrolls fresh graduates for a 10-month training period before assigning them to various positions.
Water replenishment and responsible usage of water is one of the critical sustainability agendas we strive to achieve. As a total beverage production company, we utilize water as one of the main resources and actively work with stakeholders to secure shared water resources for our local communities.
In 2021, The Coca-Cola Foundation has funded a water replenishment project in Dire Dawa giving 6,000 people access to clean water followed by the building of six water access points, distributed among the community, school, and health center which is our recent intervention next to the water replenishment project called Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) that has benefited more than 148,000 community members in Benshangul Gumuz. Furthermore, our Bahir Dar Zurya Woreda Clean Water Supply Project is currently under construction in partnership with the NGO Drop of Water to provide water access to 17,000 individuals by constructing a water well, 100m3 reservoir, and eight water access points.
Beyond all these initiatives that are part of our daily business, we also take part in social responsibility initiatives. This year, only we donated medical equipment worth 14 million Birr to the Ministry of Health and extended humanitarian support to Addis Ababa and Ethiopian Somali region communities.
Let’s talk about the business side of CCBA for a moment. What are the principal contributions of CCBA-Ethiopia to the national economy?
Nigus Alemu: As we expand, we are using our investments to build a better-shared future for our employees and the communities we serve. Hence, we employ, produce and distribute our goods locally. We currently have 3,500 employees in our five plants and benefited over 75,000 in our value chain. Beyond creating jobs, we believe and firmly work on enhancing our employee’s competence and investment in their personal growth and talent.
In addition, for three years in a row, we had been recognized as platinum taxpayers, which made us the sixth largest taxpayer in Ethiopia. Last fiscal year only we paid 5.4 billion Birr in taxes, which is the same as our investment in the newly built Sebeta Mega Factory.
The Sebeta mega factory is a game changer. We are now able to produce our plastic bottles and start exporting PET and closures. This will ease the forex shortage impact.
What are the company’s main challenges?
Nigus Alemu: Although we are pleased with the economic contributions we have made to the country, we face certain difficulties challenging our company. To mention a few, lack of foreign currency, unanticipated increases in the cost of inputs and raw materials, high tax rates, and the imposition of multiple levies from the federal level to regions and municipalities are some of the major challenges we are facing. These challenges are affecting our production capacity, distribution, and growth. We are working with the government and other partners to solve this problem.
What long-term goals does the business have?
Nigus Alemu: We anticipate many more years of reviving Ethiopia every day and improving our nation for everybody. By pursuing a waste-free world, we intend to continue improving the continent for all people. Additionally, we will keep on our sustainability efforts to assist Ethiopian entrepreneurs and job seekers. Further, the manufacturing of preforms, closures, and other materials in the new Sebeta facility, is intended to provide the domestic and export market to assist alleviate currency shortages in the industry in addition to enabling the local manufacture of new goods like Minute Maid Juice and lowering imports.
Thank you Nigus for your time.