Renowned as the world’s largest beverage company, the Coca-Cola Company is as committed to excellence in journalism as it is to building sustainable communities.
Disclosing this in Lusaka, Zambia, during the finals of the 2012 CNN/MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Award, William Asiko, President, Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, said African journalism had indeed come of age.
Asiko, who is also Director, Public Affairs & Communications for The Coca-Cola Company and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Coca-Cola East & Central Africa Limited Staff Provident Fund, said in his opinion, African journalists are doing quite well as compared to their international colleagues.
Coca-Cola sponsorsed the Economics and Business category of the 17th CNN/MultiChoice Awards. “We have been sponsoring this award for the past 12 years and it is growing from strength to strength in terms of numbers of entries and quality of reports. It is a fantastic property and I believe this can only grow stronger. We want journalists who are objective, who dig the story and go out to report with passion and excellence,” said Asiko.
“When there is excellence in journalism every body wins, not just Coca Cola. The citizens win because the journalists are able to hold government accountable and government wins because the journalists are able to uncover corrupt deals. Everybody wins when there is good journalism. For us, it is not just CSR, it is good business and we win when the journalism is good and achieve excellence.”
The CEO noted that journalism, as the fourth arm of government, makes sure that people in position of authority are held accountable. “You cannot prosper as a country if you don’t have a good journalism of excellence that is pushing government and holding government to account.
“African journalists are being quoted on international media. Six out of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. If you watch international media you will see African journalists being quoted talking about Africa. The best people to talk about Africa are Africans and the world is realising that now if you want to get credible news about Africa then you need to speak to the Africans.
“These days a lot of international media have African correspondents who are reporting to the world. There is no such thing that Africa should be seen through the eyes of somebody else. I believe that the sponsorhip of the African journalists’ award is part of that growth and we should be part of that way as we see excellence in journalism.”
Asiko said Coca Cola has a long history in Africa. “We came to the African continent in 1928 and we have never left a single market. By 1970, we were covering half the countries in Africa and today we cover all countries. We are postioned to take advantage of Africa’s growth because we are everywhere. We produce locally with local employees and we can take advantage of any chanve in the economy and as people prosper the more they buy our products and that is what we have seen in every market.”
Noting the company has had its share of challenges, Asiko said the crtical thing is how the challenges are handled when they arise.
“Nigeria is a very ready market for Coca-Cola It is the most populous country in Africa. We have had a very good business in Nigeria for a long time. Today the economic polices of government are favourable to business. we are seeing a lot of infrastructure growth in Nigeria and the middle class growing in Nigeria. this is what is good for our business. every body is investing in Nigeria not just Coke but other international investors including oil and gas, electricity companies.
“Any resource-rich country has good prospects. Commodity pricing is growing and Nigeria is postioned to take advantage of this world economci development. Nigeria is putting the past behind and I think the future for Nigeria is rosy and Coca-Cola wants to be part of it,” he remarked.