Afghan-made Coca-Cola hits the streets of Kabul

Kabul, January 29, 2006 (AFP) - Afghan-made Coca-Cola hit the streets of Kabul as distribution started from a 25-million-dollar plant that represents one of the most significant investments in the war-torn country since the ousting of the Taliban.

Brand new red and white trucks fanned out across the city to distribute the Afghanistan-made Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite which the franchisee is hoping will squeeze the Iranian- and Pakistani-made versions off the shelves. The first distribution precedes an official launch expected in the Islamic New Year which starts in March.

"I believe in the future of Afghanistan -- that is why I put my money in Afghanistan," said Habib Gulzar, partner in the franchisee, Habib Gulzar International. "The economy is getting better... we believe this is a good investment and Afghanistan has the potential for more investment," he told AFP.

Shopkeepers expected good sales from the drinks, which should be marginally cheaper than the average 35 afghani (less than a dollar) for one litre of the imported product. "People have already been coming here and asking for Afghan coke," shopkeeper Sher Haadi said. "It is the product of our own country and Afghans are working there. I am so proud."

The high-tech factory is expected to employ more than 300 people, with each job projected to create another 20, Gulzar said.

With the war-pocked capital still unable to provide its residents with basic facilities, including more than a few hours of electricity every two days, the new plant includes its own well, generators and waste water treatment system.

The new Coca Cola plant is the biggest investment in the industrial sector since the removal of the Taliban, the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency said. It is indicative of "relative stability in the country" which has experienced double digit growth since 2002, it said in a statement. "It says that Afghanistan is open and ready for investing, particularly, productive investment... Our hope is that other multinationals will follow suit."