Coca-Cola has been operating in Swaziland, Africa, for nearly 25 years. While this was a good business decision for the company, it was not a good decision in terms of social justice—because the proceeds support an unpopular and abusive king.
Coke chose Swaziland to build a production factory for cola concentrates in 1987. After leaving South Africa due to apartheid policies, Swaziland’s abundance of sugar and cheap labor was very appealing. Not to mention, the regime in power offered beneficial tax agreements.
Over the years, Coca-Cola has become a very important part of the country, creating local jobs and fueling the economy. The production work has been very productive, with anywhere between 22 and 40 percent of their profits stemming from Swaziland labors.
The company has been gaining more and more negative criticism, however, as they put more effort into creating a democracy. The king, Mswati III, has been abusing his powers as leader, and now citizens are asking why Coca-Cola does not respond in a way appropriate for a company from a westernized democracy.
Mswati has been accused of many inappropriate uses of power, including stealing money from his country. While the population lives in poverty, the king rests comfortably on a $200 million fortune. Additionally, he is accused of multiple human rights violations.
Because of these facts, local activists are forced to ask Coca-Cola why they continue to support such a regime. Their response was defensive, claiming that they cannot control what Mswati does with taxes paid and that he receives no direct profits from the plant.
Coca-Cola also pointed out that the people of Swaziland have benefited form the corporate presence through health, education, water, and business projects. The people, however, do not appear to be impressed with their defense arguments.