Coca-Cola is partnering with governments, NGOs, and other companies to improve access to water, occupying a gray area where genuine charity meets corporate profit.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — For years the Mlalakua River overflowed with garbage during each heavy rain. Homes would flood with water contaminated by sewage and trash. Even in the dry season, the narrow river had a nasty grayish hue, the product of runoff from the factories situated alongside it, residents and local water experts say.
Some here call the Mlalakua River by a different name: the Coca-Cola River. The nickname comes from the red-brown hue of the water. But it may also reflect the fact that among those factories that line the river’s banks is a Coca-Cola bottling plant, one of three in Tanzania. As the world’s largest beverage retailer and one of its most recognizable brands, Coca-Cola goes to great lengths to protect its image. And a few years ago, someone at the company seems to have realized that being associated with a garbage-filled river was putting the company’s local reputation very much at risk.
So in 2012, Coca-Cola entered into a public-private partnership, or PPP, aimed at cleaning the river. The company — partnering with nearly a dozen government entities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other private companies — would dredge the sludge and garbage from the river, then engage the locals in a plan to keep it clean.
But there are currents of criticism about the project — both from local residents and from a number of NGOs that focus on sustainable development. Critics wonder whether the cleanup was intended to achieve genuine and lasting change or to advance the short-term public relations goals of a multinational corporation. Indeed, most water experts and residents interviewed by GlobalPost say the Mlalakua River cleanup was inherently flawed. They say that while the river is undeniably cleaner, the project did not address the root causes of the pollution: the absence of a sewer system and trash collection for the communities along the river’s banks.
A two-month investigation examines what happens when motives of good will and profit mix.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Last year, Coca-Cola announced a $100 million partnership with the International Finance Corporation to provide business skills training and micro-loans to “empower” women — those who sell Coca-Cola products, that is.
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The program has already involved 200,000 women in Nigeria who “touch the Coca-Cola value chain,” according to the company. For instance, a woman might receive a loan to buy water from a local Coke bottler and resell it in bulk, or a farmer who grows fruit used in Coca-Cola products might receive a loan to increase her crop yield. Watchdogs say the project, ironically called the Banking on Women initiative, is merely a savvy way for Coca-Cola to increase its own reach in the country while diverting so-called development funding from the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank, to subsidize Coca-Cola’s profit-seeking activity.
A successful Coca-Cola partnership in Tanzania to better distribute medicine across the country shows that not all public-private partnerships have to be self-serving.
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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage retailer, has an unparalleled ability to get its goods to anyone and everyone. In Tanzania, Coca-Cola reaches areas where even essential medicines and life-saving medical supplies do not. An incredible 35 to 40 percent of all orders for medicine from Tanzania’s 5,000 health centers go unfilled due to “stock-outs.” The drugs simply don’t arrive.
If Coca-Cola can reach all corners of Tanzania, why not medicine? At last it is beginning to, thanks to Project Last Mile, a partnership that is helping to fix a number of kinks in the medical distribution process.
A push by Kenya’s president and male-dominated parliament to overhaul marriage bodes ill for the nation’s wives, socially and economically
NAIROBI, Kenya – President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a new marriage law this week that drastically restricts the rights of women in wedlock.
Human rights advocates here and abroad are condemning the law, which grants men the right to marry a second, third or even fourth wife without the previous wives’ permission. Currently, certain traditions allow men to take multiple wives, but only if he first gains their approval. There is no law that allows women to take multiple husbands.
“Parliament has discovered it has this ability to formulate laws that serve its interest,” said Tom Odhiambo, professor of cultural studies at the University of Nairobi. “Because many (members of parliament) are married to women whose social status and education level is below theirs, they can always go home and say “the Constitution allows me to marry a second wife.”
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After parliament passed the regulation, Kenyans waited for nearly one month to see whether President Kenyatta — who stands accused before the International Criminal Court of committing crimes against humanity during Kenya’s violent 2007-2008 Presidential election — would risk further soiling his human rights image by signing it into law. Christian and Hindu leaders joined human rights advocates in calling on Kenyatta to veto the Act, saying polygamy violates their religious edicts.
Read the full article at GlobalPost.
A slow life working aboard Kenya’s century-old train from Ground Truth on Vimeo. Produced by Jacob Kushner.
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For service workers at the Nairobi Railway, breakdowns and delays limit time-off, and there’s no overtime pay
MOMBASA, Kenya – In its heyday, the Nairobi railway employed some 24,000 people. Day and night, they worked to keep freight and passenger trains running between what is now Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, and the Indian Ocean at the port of Mombasa.
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Today, the Rift Valley Railways Consortium employs only 3,000 people. The railway itself has changed little in more than a century since it was built by the British imperial power. Trains still bobble up and down, side to side as they roll along outdated, narrow tracks. Train traffic, derailment and other delays strand cars for hours in the middle of a national park.
In April, the China Road and Bridge Corporation announced plans to replace the historic railway with a new, modern line. Workers will lay a set of standard-width tracks that will allow freight trains to traverse them at much higher speeds. Most workers seem hopeful the new line will attract more tourists and other passengers, and that the influx of customers will translate into higher wages and benefits for the workers, too.
Read the full story and watch the video at GlobalPost
In the nation’s public sector, there are huge disparities between the highest earners and the low. Now, Kenyans are fighting over who should take a cut.
Anthony Langat and Jacob Kushner
NAIROBI, Kenya—Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta ignited a nationwide debate over government employee wages this month when he surprised the country by announcing he would reduce his own salary by 20 percent.
The move signaled the beginning of a fierce debate over government wages, which are rising out of control: This year, public sector salaries are expected to eat up 54 percent of all tax revenue and equal 13 percent of the nation’s GDP, according to cabinet secretary in charge of the Treasury, Henry Rotich.
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“The recent growth in public sector wage bill is unsustainable and unacceptable,” Kenyatta said in a March 10 speech that sparked the wage debate. “If we maintain this trend we would be dedicating an ever larger share of the wealth we produce as a country to the remuneration of public servants.”
Read the full story at GlobalPost.
NAIROBI, Kenya —Today marks six months since gunmen trained by the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab stormed a popular shopping mall here, in a siege that left 62 civilians and five Kenyan soldiers dead, and at least 200 others injured.
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The victims consisted of both Kenyans and expatriates. Their families and friends remained traumatized by the attack and angered by the government’s response, during which Kenyan soldiers looted the mall, even while bodies remained strewn about.
The Israeli-owned Westgate Mall opened in 2007. It was a popular hangout for Kenyans and expatriates alike until it collapsed during the September 2013 siege. But one group of Kenyans in particular holds a uniquely intimate connection to the mall and the event that destroyed it: These hundreds of Kenyans were employed in the mall’s 80 shops and restaurants, and depended on the mall for their livelihoods.
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Their wages, small by western standards, supported their families or paid for their continuing education.
When the gunshots erupted, workers fled side-by-side with patrons. Some hid from the gunmen for upwards of 11 hours before being rescued. In small acts of heroism, some workers led others up or down staircases to safety, or out back doors.
In the aftermath of the attack, some were transferred to other franchise locations owned by their employers. But many lost their jobs entirely.
Six months later, GlobalPost asked mall employees to reflect on how the attack changed their lives and how they are coping with its long-lasting effects.
Read the full story and watch the video at GlobalPost.
Vincent Gallo Kebogo used to work at an ice cream shop called “Mama Mia,” located in the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Six months after the mall was stormed by the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab, Kebogo reflects on the devastating attack and how it has affected his life.
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Six Months Later: Kenya’s Westgate Mall workers reflect on a delicate recovery from Ground Truth on Vimeo.
A botched investment by Kenya’s social security agency may delay workers’ retirement benefits, make a Chinese construction firm richer and leave thousands of small landowners with nothing.
By Anthony Langat and Jacob Kushner
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NAIROBI, Kenya—This, says Samuel Wambiri, is how corruption can disrupt a life in Kenya.
Ten years ago, the 54-year-old father of three purchased a small plot of land on the outskirts of Nairobi for a modest 315,000 shillings. That’s about $3,700, which Wambiri agreed to pay over 10-years. And upon that land, Wambiri built a home where he and his wife could retire.
But last month, just as Wambiri had finished paying it off, the agency that sold him the land announced some troubling news: Wambiri would have to pay 920,000 shillings, or $10,824 more — four times more than his original investment. That’s because the Nairobi County governor decided Kenya’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF), which sold the land, needed to build a sewage system and access roads through it at significant cost.
The NSSF announced it would transfer the cost of the utilities to the landowners themselves.
“I was happy that I had finally finished paying for my land,” Wambiri said. “I was looking for somewhere to settle, and I settled.”
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But now, Wambiri and an estimated 5,500 fellow small-parcel landowners in Nairobi’s Tassia II neighborhood may be forced to vacate their new land altogether if they don’t find a way to pay the bill.
Read the full story at GlobalPost.