Carpenters with coffin in the shape of a Coca Cola bottle
Carpenters with coffin in the shape of a Coca Cola bottle. You can see more pictures at Ghana Web.

The Economist has an article up about how sales of Coke track economic change in Africa:

AFRICANS buy 36 billion bottles of Coke a year. Because the price is set so low—around 20-30 American cents, less than the price of the average newspaper—and because sales are so minutely analysed by Coca-Cola, the Coke bottle may be one of the continent’s best trackers of stability and prosperity.

“We see political instability first because we go down as far as we can into the market,” says Alexander Cummings, head of Coca-Cola’s Africa division. The ups and downs during Kenya’s post-election violence this year could be traced in sales of Coke in Nairobi’s slums and in western Kenya’s villages. Events in the Middle East, such as the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel, can dent sales in Muslim parts of Africa, though anti-American feeling usually wears off quite quickly.

At a macro-level, when Coke fails, the country whose market it is trying to penetrate usually fails too. Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Eritrea hardly works because the country’s totalitarian government makes it impossible to import the needed syrup. The factory in Somalia sputtered on heroically during years of fighting but finally gave out when its sugar was pinched by pirates and its workers were held up by gunmen. Mr Cummings admits that Coca-Cola is “on life support” in Zimbabwe.

Still, if Coca-Cola’s predictions are anything to go by, Africa’s future is mostly bright. The company expects sales in Africa to grow by an annual 10-13% over the next few years, handily outstripping economic growth.

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Cornstalk in Ghana

Cornstalk in Ghana

Yash Tandon writes at Pambazuka that there are:

… five basic guidelines, or principles, that must form the basis of any food policy. These are:

1. The Principle of food sovereignty. This is not the same as “food security”. A country can have food security through food imports. Dependence on food imports is precarious and prone to multiple risks — from price risks, to supply risks, to conditionality risks (policy conditions that come with food imports). Food sovereignty, on the other hand, implies ensuring domestic production and supply of food. It means that the nationals of the country (or at the very least nationals within the region) must primarily be responsible for ensuring that the nation and the region are first and foremost dependent on their own efforts and resources to grow their basic foods.

2. The Principle of priority of food over export crops produced by small farms sustained by state provision of the necessary infrastructure of financial credit, water, energy, extension service, transport, storage, marketing, and insurance against crop failures due to climate changes or other unforeseen circumstances.

3. The Principle of self-reliance and national ownership and control over the main resources for food production. These are land, seeds, water, energy, essential fertilizers and technology and equipment (for production, harvesting, storage and transport).

4. The Principle of food safety reserves. Each nation must maintain, through primarily domestic production and storage systems (including village storage as well as national silos) sufficient stocks of “reserve foods” to provide for emergencies.

5. The Principle of a fair and equitable distribution of “reserve foods” among the population during emergencies.

He concludes:

A proper analysis of the food crisis is a matter that cannot be left with trade negotiators, investment experts, or agricultural engineers. It is essentially a matter of political economy.

Which is very similar to what Vandana Shiva writes:

In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda.