Coca-cola 125 years of making friends: as Coca-Cola celebrates its 125th anniversary, we look back on its extraordinary journey and continued African adventure. Report by Tom Nevin..

Author:Nevin, Tom

Who knows when the first sip of Coke was enjoyed on African soil?

Imports of Coca-Cola into Africa started in 1928 and bottling in 1940, but long before that, perhaps a few decades before, a bottle of what was to become the world's most widely enjoyed beverage could first have arrived on the dockside of an African seaport in a sailor's kitbag or passenger's portmanteau, or maybe even wrapped in a rug on an Arab caravan.

The event is not catalogued in The Coca-Cola Company's long history, but we can be sure it happened and we can only conjecture when and where, and at the stir it might have caused when it was opened and satisfied a thirst somewhere on this vast territory. The popping of the anonymous cap marked the start of what The Coca-Cola Company today calls its "African adventure". And now there is not a country on the continent where The Coca-Cola Company is not included as a way of African life.

Over 1.7bn servings of The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) products are consumed worldwide each day in virtually every country on the planet. And with Africa accounting for 7% of it, some 120m Coca-Cola products are served continent-wide every day and that number mounts daily in tune with Africa's unstoppable economic march.

It was on 8th May 1886 that Coke, created by pharmacist Dr John Stith Pemberton, made its debut at Jacob's Pharmacy in downtown Atlanta. Trade at the drugstore's soda fountain was steady but unspectacular that first year at nine bottles a day. It was, however, an event unique in the soft drinks industry that went on to create a global brand valued at $67bn providing billions of moments of refreshment every day.

"The history of The Coca-Cola Company is a story of special moments - times with family and friends and special occasions when Coke was naturally there," says the The Coca-Cola Company website. "Every person who drinks a Coke enjoys a moment of refreshment - and shares in an experience that millions of others have savoured. And all of those individual experiences combined have created a worldwide phenomenon - a truly global brand that plays its own small part on the world stage."

"Coca-Cola's 125th anniversary is not just about the past, it is about the future," says William Egbe, Head of Pan-African Initiatives and President of the Coca-Cola South Africa Business Unit - the largest single market in Africa.

South Africa stakes a claim for special mention on Coke's 125th birthday year because it was in South Africa that...

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