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Using innovation to improve the lives of Africans

July 24, 2018

Jacques Vermeulen, Managing Director of Coca Cola Beverages Africa International Division

“There is always something new out of Africa,” the ancient Greeks used to say. Back then, the proverb referred to the continent’s extraordinary diversity, but today it can be applied to the accelerating pace of change as Africa begins to reshape its economic destiny

It’s an exciting time to be an African business. This is a youthful continent, experiencing the most rapid urbanization rate in the world and, by 2034, it is expected to boast a larger working-age population than either China or India

Accelerating technological change and rapid adoption of mobile telephony are helping to unlock new opportunities for consumers and businesses, while governments are increasingly conscious of the legislative and policy levers that must be activated to accelerate economic development

For a business to compete in this environment demands agility and relentless innovation – to deliver new products that meet the evolving expectations of consumers, new skills to meet the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, new processes to adapt to new technology and the fast-changing operating environment, and, in the case of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), also new packaging solutions that respond to environmental concerns and the preferences of consumers.

From a product portfolio point of view, CCBA has 508 different products in the nine African markets where CCBA’s International Division operates – Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Ghana as well as the islands of Comoros and Mayotte. That is 65 percent more than we had last year. Some of them are old favorites, Coca-Cola itself first and foremost, but many are new, like our hydration range of energy drinks and water, our teas and coffees, our nutrition juice and even value-added dairy drinks. Our aim, together with The Coca-Cola Company, is to become a total beverage company, and in this context we are continuously bringing new products to the market in response to changing consumer preferences.

Fundamental to our innovation is increased investment and local sourcing of raw products. As an example, in Kenya, we are already sourcing local fruit pulp for the manufacture of Minute Maid Mango.

We continue to invest across all our markets in products that respond to changing consumer tastes and preferences, as we seek to increasingly draw on local inputs as part of our commitment to source locally some of the ingredients we currently import. We have an ambitious target to substantially increase our local sourcing by 2022.

This is reflective of our belief that the growth of our business is directly linked to the development of the African economy.

As we invest in local production capacity, we also invest in our people, building the skills of our workforce to meet not only the requirements of our business, but the broader economy too, thus enhancing the productivity and growth potential of the continent itself.

Before we put in a new line of products, our employees spend several months in the manufacturer’s facility in the country of origin, fine-tuning the skills needed to bring those products to market to the high quality standards we set.

Some of this involves reducing sugar in our drinks, giving consumers options of diet, light or even zerosugar drinks. It also involves introducing new packaging which reduces portions as we combine scientific research with the changing tastes and dietary preferences of our consumers.

Jacques VermeulenManaging Director of Coca Cola Beverages Africa International Division