Coca Cola Nigeria may have rested, perhaps temporarily, its towering unique Christmas tree that gathered hundreds of visitors at the National Theatre, Lagos, yearly, but the multinational company is still displaying strength in its “responsiveness to the citizenship priorities in the communities” where it operates.
The 33-metre African tallest Christmas tree initiative held last in 2011 was conceived in 2007. But this year, the beverage company took a bold initiative consistent with its unique tradition of creating happiness among consumers. Recognising that the society “cannot have a healthy and growing business unless the communities are themselves healthy and sustainable,” Coke recently threw its purse open to assist Friends Africa in its campaign against stigmatisation.
Though Coke has been relatively quiet this year in its above-the-line campaign, but partnering Friends Africa to fight stigmatisation of those living with diseases such as malaria and HIV, demonstrates its commitment to having a large productive workforce for economic development.
On why Coke is throwing its weight behind the NGO’s campaign, Clem Ugorji, public affairs and communications manager of Coke, said: “We see Friends Africa as a credible organisation. First, you look at the calibre of people on their board of trustees and management, and we have watched them over the years and we have seen that they have been very consistent, they have a passion for the cause they are pursuing, they understand the strategy of what is to be done. When you look at the model that they are using when you bring football, music and movies together, that is a very strong force for social mobilisation, and for this kind of cause you have to be able to create awareness and draw people out of their shells and these are the three elements of a society that is most effective in social mobilisation.”
He said for Coca Cola, “we are committed to the well-being of the communities in which we operate and so everything that helps to build a healthy nation or healthy community or prosperous community, we are actively involved in that and we see this as strategic to our business.”
According to him, it is therefore implicit that businesses ensure that they continue to add value, not only by their own straight line of business but also creating general value in the society in other to expand both the pool of people that is available.
When a society is healthy then there would be a healthy workforce and then healthy consumers and healthy policy makers, it is all encompassing, Clem believed.
The communication manager declined that the company had been quiet this year, saying “we haven’t been quiet, we have been doing other things, but it depends on what we want to focus on at a particular moment in time. Like our football programme is still on, our women empowerment programme is still on, so we are supporting other causes but not every cause is able to attract the level of media publicity that this particular one has attracted, that is why it appears that this is more loud than other things that we have been doing.”
At the event graced by stakeholders from different spheres of life, Akudo Anyanwu Ikemba, CEO, Friends Africa, said every year, “the economy is losing so much to this illness, not only by those who are infected but also because of the huge resources that are expended to taking care of those who are living with HIV. This is of huge concern because we work in an environment that we believe that if our businesses must be prosperous, the community must also be healthy and prosperous because there is absolutely no way a business can operate and prosper for a community that is not prosperous in terms of health.”
She was pleased of the private sector’s deep involvement against stigmatisation, saying “stigmatisation reduces productivity and it’s not good for the economy. The issue is why stigmatise, you cut out a population that could be very productive when you stigmatise. But when you create a simple avenue and enabling environment, they can come in and still be productive.”
Emmanuel Babayero, former Super Eagles player and the brand ambassador for Friends Africa, entertained the guest at the event sponsored by Coke to fight stigmatisation.
By: Daniel Obi