A Dutch journalist, Olivier van Beemen, who uncovered Heineken’s ‘corruption’ in Africa in his investigative book titled ‘Heineken in Africa: Multinational Unleashed,’ has reacted to a claim that his work paints a bad image of Africa.
During an evening of book reading and signing on Tuesday at Roving Heights bookstore, Abuja, Mr Beemen spoke on why he wrote the book.
He said his report gave a portrait of multinationals (using Heineken as a case study) that came with false claim of helping Africa to ‘develop’ but continually damage it to a lesser level than it was before.
“It has never been my purpose to paint Africa ‘black’ in the book. Issues such as sexual abuse, corruption, tax evasion, discussed in the book, are commonplace on the global stage,” he said.
He noted that his interest to dig about Heineken’s corruption practices in Africa was piqued when the beer company lied about having no link with Ben Ali, a businessman with ties to former Tunisian dictator, who had entered partnership with the company in secret.
The journalist said he grew more interested when the Chief Executive Officer of Heineken, Jean-François van Boxmeer, once said that using women in bars to promote sales was no longer in business in Europe but profitable in Africa.
As a Dutch, he said he felt the need more to look deeply into the Dutch company that paraded itself as a ‘developer partner’ to Africa.
“It says its development is good for the development of Africa too. But instead of being an impact maker, we realise it is really holding Africa back with menaces that come from its brand enlargement- using women to boost sales, producing alcohol in larger size than those of the West.
“It makes people to take more and more alcohol and we know its effect it generate is to create violence,” he said.
He noted that while Heineken had strong links with African governments “and continually made use women in bars for promotion of sales to oust out few local competitors”, it would be important for governments to see the image behind Heineken’s deceptive methods.
Audience share experience
Onyinye Orji, one of the participants who shared Mr Beemen’s view, clamoured that serious measures should be taken against multinationals that engage in activities detrimental to African communities.
“I don’t believe what should be a matter of debate is whether or not Beemen’s book is indicting to Africa but rather what we should be focusing on is how we, citizens, engage these multinationals when things are not right,” she said.
She, however, called for participation of citizens in engaging these multinationals on the civic space and advocated a boycott of their products to show serious commitment to the cause.
Yekini Akinwale, a participant and investigative journalist, said the book had drawn up serious issues that need a national attention from both the government and the citizens.
He noted that it had a double-edged look in its portrayal of Africa as a whole.