The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Alexander Cummings, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the Coca-Cola Company, told attendees at the 19th annual Wharton Africa Business Forum that they were witnessing the emergence of a new Africa.

Cummings, who spoke this Saturday at the Dhirubhai Ambani Auditorium in Huntsman Hall, was a keynote speaker at the three-day conference exploring business practices that promote growth and development in Africa.

Cummings, who was born in Liberia, said the emergence of a new Africa will be accompanied by “the emergence of an immense opportunity.”

“In Africa, opportunity and responsibility come in a single package,” he said, adding that Coca-Cola supports African communities through micro-distribution centers and partnerships with local farmers.

“These are stories of small businesses. But the stories are growing and so are the businesses.”

Cummings also predicted a dramatic change in African markets.

“An African proverb goes, ‘When the music changes, so does the dance.’ Coca-Cola has been listening to the music of Africa for the last 80 years. It has changed, but never like this,” he said.

This sudden change, he said, can be attributed to a rise in the continent’s middle class, which now accounts for 34 percent of the African population. “You can imagine what that means for a company whose motto is ‘Refresh the World,’” he joked.

Udeme Asuamah, from San Francisco, thought the speaker was very informative, but was “disappointed there was no mention of corporate social responsibility through education. Education is the cornerstone of empowering communities.”

Barkot Tekle, who lives and works in New York, said he had attended Harvard Business School’s Africa Business Conference. “These forums gather all the players who have experience on the ground level in Africa, which is valuable, since information flow can be limited.”

Tekle thought the content of Cummings’ address was “not particularly surprising. However, I had no idea that an African occupies such a senior level post within a huge multinational like Coca-Cola.”

Etzerson Philitas, an organizer of the event and a first-year MBA student, said Cummings was a keynote speaker because “our theme this year is ‘Celebrating Innovation and Operational Excellence,’ and Coca-Cola is a leader in supply chain distribution.”

Philitas said that the forum was relevant because, “It is a great venue to dispel myths surrounding African business practices, as well as to network, and mix business with the social and cultural. So far the conference is going well. A lot of key relationships have been forged, and the content has been stellar. It seems like the conference is doing its job.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.