From providing a reprieve during a particularly scorching summer day, to conjuring happy childhood memories, Coca-Cola touches peoples' lives in deeply human and meaningful ways all over the world.

One of the most profound ways Coca-Cola impacts peoples’ lives is by creating economic opportunities that enable dreams and ambitions to be fulfilled. 

Just ask Ebrahim Rasool, the Republic of South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States. 

Ambassador Rasool grew up in the Western Cape of South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, during the height of apartheid, a political, social and economic system that subjugated the overwhelming black majority population to severe discrimination at the hands of a white minority.  

An Indian immigrant to South Africa, the Ambassador’s father initially sold fruits and vegetables, barely eking out a living, in order to make ends meet. After a brief stint with another beverage company, he joined Coca-Cola, where he worked for more than 10 years, playing a key role in expanding the company’s market share.

Ambassador Rasool fondly tells a story of how his father received recognition for his efforts. One day, during his delivery, an assistant asked his father to step outside, where his supervisor and another man with an American accent waited.

The Ambassador’s father’s first question to the stranger was, “What can I sell you, sir?” The American smiled and said, “I see why they’ve recommended you so highly!” It turns out the American was a senior Coca-Cola executive visiting from Atlanta responsible for the company’s expansion in South Africa. 

This opportunity with Coca-Cola not only supported Ambassador Rasool’s family during his childhood, but also laid the foundation for Ambassador Rasool’s future success as a diplomat, government minister and civil rights activist. Because Coca-Cola offered a base salary, in addition to commission, the Ambassador’s father was able to smooth out the family’s spending over the course of the year, which enabled him to save enough money to send Ambassador Rasool to university.

Today, Coca-Cola continues to provide opportunities for hard-working people in South Africa. The Coca-Cola system makes a total annual contribution to the South African economy of around $1 billion, or 0.31% of gross domestic product. Coca-Cola, directly and indirectly, supports around 56,000 full-time jobs in South Africa, and approximately another 80,000 jobs downstream among informal traders. 

Coca-Cola is also a driver of entrepreneurship in South Africa via initiatives like 5by20, which aims to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs globally by 2020.  According to Ambassador Rasool, Coca-Cola’s recognition of the informality of African markets is one of the key reasons for Coca-Cola’s widespread success in the country. 

“The brand has created for many an entrepreneurial base in the African continent and in South Africa.  For one, [the Company] was focused very much on the formal market, so it cornered that market, but it also soon understood that there was a vast informal market as well.  And that while the formal market would be served with your normal outlets, such as supermarkets and shops, that the informal market could be served also by home shops, what we call in South Africa spasa shops.  That’s a major entrepreneurial boost for a country, firstly, reeling from apartheid and, secondly, from a deep poverty that comes from apartheid.”

Family Ties

Jose Cuisia, Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States, also has family ties to Coca-Cola. While employed by San Miguel, Coca-Cola’s local bottling partner in the Philippines, Ambassador Cuisia’s father ran a bottling plant in Iloilo.

Ambassador Cuisia’s family prioritized education as well. The Ambassador vividly remembers his father telling him as a child, “I will give you the best education possible.” 

The generous compensation and benefits package Ambassador Cuisia’s father received during his employment with Coca-Cola enabled him to fulfill his promise to his son. The Ambassador attended one of the leading universities in the Philippines and went on to study business at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, setting the stage for a long and successful career in politics and finance.

In his current capacity as Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Cuisia works closely with Coca-Cola to advance initiatives that benefit the Filipino people. In fact, Ambassador Cuisia credits the networking skills he currently employs as an Ambassador to the time he spent watching his father interact with employees and customers as a Coca-Cola plant manager.

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Jose Cuisia, Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States.

As in South Africa, Ambassador Cuisia believes that Coca-Cola has been so successful in the Philippines due to the company’s long and enduring commitment to people and communities. 

“Coca-Cola was always viewed as being very generous," he said. "They would bring in Santa Claus during Christmas time and give gifts to kids from poorer areas. That was one of the things that impressed me about Coca-Cola. The philanthropy of Coca-Cola starts way, way back.”

From working in partnership with the Philippines government and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to empowering women entrepreneurs via 5by20 to building schools for children through the company’s Little Red Schoolhouse initiative, Coca-Cola has stood side-by-side with the Filipino people in their efforts to achieve a brighter future, ever since Coca-Cola first entered the Philippines in 1912. Today, the Coca-Cola system employees almost 10,000 people in the Philippines, serves over 800,000 outlets, and has invested almost $1.5 billion in the Philippines economy, just since 2009. 

Recent events surrounding Typhoon Haiyan further highlight this commitment, which has been particularly strong in times of starkest need. Immediately following the recent devastating typhoon, Coca-Cola trucks distributed water, medicines and food supplies in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Philippine army. The company donated $2.5 million and suspended its advertising and Christmas promotion to redirect funds for humanitarian efforts. In addition, Coca-Cola has joined with the U.S. Agency for International Development to jumpstart micro-enterprises and provide livelihoods to more than 5,000 women in the Visayas region. Typhoon recovery will remain a top priority for Coke's business in the Philippines.

All over the world, Coca-Cola enables dreams to come true by providing ordinary people with the resources they need to invest in the future of their families and communities. Ambassadors Rasool and Cuisia serve as evidence of the incredible impact of this investment. Now, in their capacities as Ambassadors, they continue to work in partnership with Coca-Cola to ensure that the next generation of South Africans and Filipinos have similar opportunities to fulfill their potential.