NBC in Gaza forg­ing ahead

Middle East Business (English) - - FRONT PAGE -

For any­one con­cerned about Pales­tine's fu­ture, Gaza's eco­nomic sta­tis­tics can make for de­press­ing read­ing. Whilst a much-de­pleted num­ber of busi­nesses, both Pales­tinian and from fur­ther afield, con­tinue to in­vest in Gaza, cur­rent sta­tis­tics speak for them­selves1. An ab­sence of ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture (elec­tric­ity, clean wa­ter, sewage treat­ment, and waste man­age­ment) has blighted the daily lives of Gaza’s 1.9 mil­lion cit­i­zens.

In this ar­ti­cle, we hear how Pales­tine's Na­tional Bev­er­age Com­pany (NBC), Coca-Cola and Cappy fran­chisee and a long-term in­vestor in Gaza, is fi­nally see­ing how its un­wa­ver­ing sup­port of Gaza's pop­u­la­tion is bring­ing re­sults. Fur­ther ex­pan­sion of NBC's fac­tory in Gaza's In­dus­trial Zone and plans to build a much needed de­sali­na­tion wa­ter treat­ment plant are giv­ing Gazans hope for a brighter fu­ture. NBC has also worked closely with the Eco­nomic Me­dia Fo­rum to fund much needed train­ing for jour­nal­ists and me­dia pro­fes­sion­als.

The Na­tional Bev­er­age Com­pany (NBC) is the third largest em­ployer in Pales­tine. With 700 di­rect em­ploy­ees in the West Bank and Gaza, 200 of whom are based in Gaza, NBC also sup­port around 7,000 in­di­rect jobs across the coun­try. This is all the more im­por­tant at a time when un­em­ploy­ment rates across the West Bank (21%) and Gaza (44%) are on the in­crease1. Tack­ling un­em­ploy­ment has been one of NBC's many goals through­out the years. By go­ing one step fur­ther and build­ing a new bot­tling and can­ning line in Gaza, rather than sim­ply dis­tribut­ing im­ported bev­er­ages from the West Bank, NBC has shown that it is there to stay. By be­com­ing one of the first busi­nesses to in­vest heav­ily in Gaza's In­dus­trial Zone, NBC has led the way from the very start.

Fac­tory's growth tack­les un­em­ploy­ment

Ac­cord­ing to UNCTAD's 2015 re­port, Gaza’s per capita GDP 4 has shrunk by 23% since 1994. The re­port noted the dire so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions in Gaza over the years, and the need for sig­nif­i­cant re­con­struc­tion in sec­tors such as health, ed­u­ca­tion, en­ergy, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion. Since then re­con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties have been slow to non-ex­is­tent due to reg­u­lar pe­ri­ods of con­flict and the re­stric­tions placed upon build­ing ma­te­ri­als such as ce­ment: of the $5.4 bil­lion pledged at 2014's Cairo Con­fer­ence on Pales­tine – Re­con­struct­ing Gaza, over half was com­mit­ted to re­con­struc­tion projects — but ac­cord­ing to the World Bank, only 51% had been dis­bursed as of 2016. In Septem­ber 2017, a World Bank re­port on Gaza5 pro­moted a new vi­sion for the Pales­tinian econ­omy that could pro­duce be­tween 6% and 8% an­nual growth. In­vest­ment in the pri­vate sec­tor could create up­wards of 60,000 jobs in Gaza, create new ar­eas of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, and sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove liv­ing stan­dards. NBC's Coca-Cola Gaza fac­tory was an­nounced in 2014 and be­gan con­struc­tion in the In­dus­trial Zone in 2016 with an ini­tial in­vest­ment of $20 mil­lion. Phase one pro­duced soft drinks in glass bot­tles (Re­turn­able Bot­tle), cre­at­ing 120 di­rect jobs and about 1,200 in­di­rect jobs. With the suc­cess­ful open­ing of its sec­ond phase, the fac­tory now pro­duces soft drinks in metal cans and glass bot­tles, em­ploy­ing 150 peo­ple, ex­pected to rise to 200, with 1,500 in­di­rect jobs in the lo­cal area, ex­pected to rise to 2,000. Upon the com­ple­tion of phase three, over 300 di­rect jobs (and the as­so­ci­ated in­di­rect jobs) will ce­ment NBCs long-term com­mit­ment to the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Staff are de­lighted that NBC is stick­ing with Gaza as they re­alise just how im­por­tant it is for the com­mu­nity at large to have such con­stant sup­port even when the go­ing gets tough. NBC's Gen­eral Man­ager, Mr. Imad al-Hindi, be­lieves that over­com­ing the com­plex­i­ties in­volved with build­ing in Gaza makes it even more sat­is­fy­ing when projects are com­pleted suc­cess­fully. Help­ing those most in need is in­trin­sic to NBC's long-stand­ing com­mit­ment to as­sist all sec­tors of Pales­tine's di­verse com­mu­ni­ties. Since an­nounc­ing the project in 2014, through to the first phase's in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2016, reg­u­lar up­dates have ap­peared in this mag­a­zine; with the sec­ond phase now op­er­a­tional, the fu­ture of the site is guar­an­teed. Peo­ple at all lev­els of NBC, from the board of direc­tors and ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment to NBC's staff and sup­pli­ers worked con­stantly to overcome the chal­lenges in­volved with es­tab­lish­ing Gaza's Coca-Cola fac­tory.

Wa­ter - un­safe to drink - un­til now

As our pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles have tes­ti­fied, NBC has an ex­ten­sive range of CSR ac­tiv­i­ties to as­sist those el­e­ments of Pales­tinian civil so­ci­ety that need sup­port and suc­cour. In Gaza, noth­ing could be more ur­gent than the need for potable wa­ter. Due to in­cred­i­bly high rates of un­em­ploy­ment and dis­place­ment of its cit­i­zens, it comes as no sur­prise, but shock­ing at the same time, to hear that 80% of Gazans re­ceive food as­sis­tance or other forms of help. But when NBC's direc­tors heard that only 10% res­i­dents have ac­cess to a clean, safe wa­ter sup­ply, they knew that some­thing more con­crete than do­na­tions of wa­ter were re­quired. Work­ing jointly with Coca-Cola Foun­da­tion, Coca-Cola Mid­dle East and Mercy Corps, the in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion, NBC is di­rectly in­volved with one their most im­por­tant com­mu­nity projects so far: a wa­ter de­sali­na­tion unit con­structed near Al-Mag­hazi refugee camp. It will pro­vide over 30,000 Gazans with clean wa­ter6, im­ple­ment a youth em­pow­er­ment pro­gram aims at de­vel­op­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for young­sters in Gaza, and con­duct­ing a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign to ed­u­cate in­hab­i­tants about hy­gienic way of han­dling and stor­ing their wa­ter. The plant will dis­trib­ute 90,000 litres per day from 20 out­let points through­out the refugee camp, daily ac­cess to fresh wa­ter will make such a dif­fer­ence to the lives of young and old alike. Gaza’s on­go­ing elec­tric­ity cri­sis has also meant that power has been un­avail­able for up to 20 hours per day at the height of the cur­rent short­age. This has crip­pled eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and the de­liv­ery of vi­tal ser­vices, es­pe­cially health ser­vices, wa­ter sup­plies, and sewage treat­ment. With the com­ple­tion of this de­sali­na­tion project, at least one of these long­stand­ing is­sues will be solved for one neigh­bour­hood in Gaza.

Train­ing me­dia pro­fes­sion­als

Talk­ing about how busi­nesses are cop­ing within such a re­stricted econ­omy has of­ten been dif­fi­cult in re­cent times. As Gaza tries to de­velop a more ro­bust busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, it is im­por­tant to try to en­gen­der a more pos­i­tive and en­cour­ag­ing - but at the same time re­al­is­tic - style of re­port­ing about the lo­cal sit­u­a­tion. NBC saw that there was a gap in lo­cal me­dia to pro­vide Gazans with high qual­ity pro­fes­sional re­port­ing about the econ­omy. More in-depth anal­y­sis of the ar­eas of in­ter­est to en­trepreneurs, for ex­am­ple, would hope­fully en­cour­age rather than dis­cour­age start-ups and in­vestors alike. With a project led and de­liv­ered by Gaza's Eco­nomic Me­dia Fo­rum, NBC has pro­vided fund­ing for two spe­cial­ist cour­ses to pro­vide lo­cal jour­nal­ists and eco­nomic re­porters with the skills to com­mu­ni­cate with Pales­tinian so­ci­ety about their eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment in an ob­jec­tive, ac­cu­rate and well re­searched man­ner. The train­ing would im­prove the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of those pro­vid­ing ser­vices to the lo­cal me­dia, and of­fer new skills, per­spec­tives and in­sights that would en­able them to bet­ter en­gage with their au­di­ences. The Fo­rum's Chair­man, Mo­hammed Khaled Abu Jayyab, un­der­lined the im­por­tance of this train­ing to Gaza. He stated that this pro­gram aims to ed­u­cate me­dia pro­fes­sion­als about eco­nomic con­cepts and ter­mi­nol­ogy, giv­ing them the skills to write about com­plex ideas in a way that will help to form pub­lic opin­ion and eco­nomic aware­ness. The me­dia can also raise aware­ness of laws, hu­man rights and civic du­ties in an easy to digest man­ner. The two-month long train­ing course in­volved me­dia pro­fes­sion­als from 30 dif­fer­ent me­dia out­lets op­er­at­ing in the Gaza Strip. The course con­sisted of vis­its to lo­cal busi­nesses, di­rect me­dia train­ing, con­fer­ences, field vis­its and spe­cial­ist writ­ing cour­ses, giv­ing

jour­nal­ists the abil­ity to re­search and pro­duce pro­fes­sional re­ports on Gaza's eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment for pub­lic con­sump­tion. Mr Imad al-Hindi, Gen­eral Man­ager of NBC, said that the com­pany is sup­port­ing this ini­tia­tive as it re­alises the im­por­tance of de­vel­op­ing the creative and me­dia in­dus­tries in Gaza. As part of its cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity plan­ning (CSR), NBC aims to em­power Gazans - and all other Pales­tini­ans - by fund­ing sim­i­larly suc­cess­ful ca­pac­ity build­ing projects.

The Eco­nomic Me­dia Fo­rum, ini­ti­ated by Gaza's Al-Eqte­sa­dia news­pa­per, an­tic­i­pates that this train­ing will have en­abled those work­ing in the me­dia sec­tor to de­velop closer links with a range of sec­tors, both lo­cal busi­nesses and the third sec­tor (e.g. char­i­ties). By do­ing so, this should pro­vide Gaza's me­dia with the skills to re­port in a more pro­fes­sional, ob­jec­tive and ac­cu­rate way that is on a par with in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards. This in turn will pro­vide the Pales­tinian peo­ple with a greater un­der­stand­ing of their econ­omy. Mr al-Hindi sums up their on­go­ing ac­tiv­i­ties; "We at NBC be­lieve the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in Gaza will get bet­ter in the fu­ture re­gard­less of the cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and its high un­em­ploy­ment rate. All of our ac­tiv­i­ties in Gaza align with our vi­sion of pro­vid­ing a bet­ter life for our peo­ple across the wider com­mu­nity, by en­hanc­ing the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for our youth."

1 Pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment has re­duced from 25% in 2007 to 5% in 2017 due to siege and con­flict. Source: Euromon­i­tor's pa­per on de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in Gaza.

2 United Na­tions Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (UNOCHA), “The Gaza Strip: The Hu­man­i­tar­ian Im­pact of the Block­ade,” Novem­ber 14, 2016, https://www.ochaopt.org/con­tent/gaza­s­trip-hu­man­i­tar­ian-im­pact-block­ade­n­ovem­ber-2016.

3 Q1 2017 data from Pales­tinian Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics re­ported by The Port­land Trust http://port­landtrust.org/sites/ de­fault/files/peb/bul­let­in_132_a4_d3.pdf

4 http://unctad.org/en/pages/PressRe­lease. aspx?Orig­i­nalVer­sionID=423

5 http://www.world­bank.org/en/news/pressre­lease/201712/09//with-right-ac­tion­spales­tinian-eco­nomic-growth-could-rise-to­seven-per­cent

Bsoyfy

6 un­rwa.org/news­room/emer­gency-re­ports/ gaza-sit­u­a­tion-re­port-200

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