The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation hosted the eight ALA students sponsored by the foundation (the ‘Coke Scholars’) at Coca Cola’s offices on June 6th, as a critical step in strengthening ALA’s partnership with the Foundation. The eight “Coke Scholars”, Abdramane Diabate (Mali), Zakariah Merdi (Morocco), Rumbidzai Hove (Botswana), Alexis Teyie (Kenya), Zineb Oulmakki (Morocco), Sherryen Mutoka (Tanzania), Oluwasanmi Oyenuga (Nigeria) and Goodman Lepota (South Africa), visited Coca-Cola ’s Parktown offices in Johannesburg for a jam-packed ”induction day”.
The day began with an overview of the history and origins of the Coca-Cola, facilitated by Coca-Cola’s communications manager, Angela Harrell. Angela enlightened the Coke Scholars on some of the industry secrets behind the Coca-Cola brand, keen to point out that one of the brand’s biggest successes was its ability to act as a status equaliser, “where anyone, from the Queen of England to the poor man on the street, drinks and loves Coca-Cola.”
The Coke Scholars then had a session with Coke’s resident nutritionist and dietician, who helped dispel popular myths about Coca-Cola products. This session in particular, elicited several questions from our very eager Coke Scholars who all really wanted to know just what it is that gives Coke its special flavour and lasting success.
The Scholars also had a chance to chat with Zoe Dean- Smith from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and Sammy Mohlaoli, Communications Affairs Manager for the Public Affairs & Communications team at Coca-Cola South Africa, who both spoke about Coca-Cola’s community programmes and corporate social investment initiatives across the continent. “I was introduced to some of the wonderful ways Coke gives back to the community, ensuring its strong social license. I realized certain corporations back in my home country and in Africa lack such social consciousness and sustainability plans, which eventually leads to their collapse,” said Oluwasanmi Oyenuga. Abdramane Diabate remarked that, “The visit to Coca-Cola was enlightening for me, about both Coca-Cola and the corporate world. I have learned that Coca-Cola contributes to the development of Africa by not only being the biggest employer on the continent but also financing the growth of myriads of communities on the continent.”
Perhaps one of the most interesting sessions was a panel discussion convened with four Coca-Cola employees, each from very different practice areas, and varied career paths. This session resonated particularly with our second-year Coke Scholars who are about to graduate and begin career paths of their own. “It was a really fantastic experience to get to interact with professionals in their various fields of work. Their narrations of their experien ces not only broadened my knowledge but gave me information I can rely on to weather certain problems that might arise on my career path. I was able to gain contacts that will help me not only here at ALA, but even in the outside world,” remarked Oluwasanmi Oyenuga. “The lessons I got from the experiences werehelpful to as a rising CEO of a student enterprise on the African Leadership Academy campus,” said Goodman Lepota. “Almost all of [the panelists] emphasized the importance of key leadership skills in professional success,” added Zakariah Merdi.
An absolute highlight of the day was the group’s visit to the ABI bottling plant, a key partner of Coca-Cola, South Africa. Walking through the bottling plant on a guided tour, the Coke Scholars were able to gain incredible insight into the engineering feat that is bottling machinery.
Several cans of Coca-Cola later, the Coke Scholars returned to ALA, all remarking on the enlightening experience they had had. Alexis Teyie remarked of the visit: “A fantastic, thought provoking time, and entirely necessary and beneficial- one of those great seminal moments that often spark true progress!”