Coca-Cola key to Africa’s stability?

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images Finally, a political indicator I can get behind. Coca-Cola sales are a key signal of peace and prosperity in Africa, according to an intriguing theory from Jonathan Ledgard, The Economist‘s Africa correspondent. Africans buy more than 36 billion bottles of Coca-Cola each year, and the price is low enough that many even ...

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593708_080728_coke5.jpg

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

Finally, a political indicator I can get behind. Coca-Cola sales are a key signal of peace and prosperity in Africa, according to an intriguing theory from Jonathan Ledgard, The Economist's Africa correspondent.

Africans buy more than 36 billion bottles of Coca-Cola each year, and the price is low enough that many even in the most impoverished villages can afford a bottle now and then. Folks love their Coca-Cola: As the largest private employer on the continent, Coca-Cola is so entrenched in hearts that people go to the grave with the stuff. And since Coca-Cola tracks its sales and distribution in Africa down to the most minute details, any swift drops in sales or problems in the distribution chain can point to real-time economic hardship and instability.

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

Finally, a political indicator I can get behind. Coca-Cola sales are a key signal of peace and prosperity in Africa, according to an intriguing theory from Jonathan Ledgard, The Economist‘s Africa correspondent.

Africans buy more than 36 billion bottles of Coca-Cola each year, and the price is low enough that many even in the most impoverished villages can afford a bottle now and then. Folks love their Coca-Cola: As the largest private employer on the continent, Coca-Cola is so entrenched in hearts that people go to the grave with the stuff. And since Coca-Cola tracks its sales and distribution in Africa down to the most minute details, any swift drops in sales or problems in the distribution chain can point to real-time economic hardship and instability.

In other words, if Coke sales drop off swiftly and suddently in parts of, say, Kenya, there is a good chance that either the area has become too dangerous for deliverymen to make their rounds or that something catastrophic is happening to people’s incomes. Either way, bad news.

Having been raised on Coca-Cola myself, this seems intuitive. In the O’Hara household, drinking the last Coke without picking up another 12-pack was tantamount to a declaration of war.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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