How Coca-Cola Became African
The astonishing true story of how shrewd marketing and high politics enabled a global beverage brand to conquer a continent–albeit not on its own terms.
Travel to virtually any African country and you are likely to find a Coca-Cola, often a cold one at that. Bottled asks how this carbonated drink became ubiquitous across the continent, and what this reveals about the realities of globalisation, development and capitalism.
Bottled is the first assessment of the social, commercial and environmental impact of one of the planet’s biggest brands and largest corporations, in Africa. Sara Byala charts the company’s century-long involvement in everything from recycling and education to the anti-apartheid struggle, showing that Africans have harnessed Coca-Cola in varied expressions of modernity and self-determination: this is not a story of American capitalism running amok, but rather of a company becoming African, bending to consumer power in ways big and small.
In late capitalism, everyone’s fates are bound together. A beverage in Atlanta and a beverage in Johannesburg pull us all towards the same end narrative. This story matters for more than just the local reasons, enhancing our understanding of our globalised, integrated world. Drawing on fieldwork and research in company archives, Byala asks a question for our time: does Coca-Cola’s generative work offset the human and planetary costs associated with its growth in the twenty-first century?
Sara Byala PhD (Harvard) is Senior Lecturer in Critical Writing, University of Pennsylvania. South African by birth, Byala has also lectured on African history in Penn’s History department, Wharton School, and Lauder Institute. She is the author of A Place That Matters Yet: John Gubbins’s MuseumAfrica in the Postcolonial World.