gains global momentum
By Tim Kennedy
Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, McDonalds, Philip Morris,
Perrier, Pizza Hut, Disney, Nestle, Coca-Cola, KFC, Kleenex, Tommy
Hilfiger, Clinique. On any given day, from New York to Nairobi,
from Jeddah to Johannesburg, from Topeka to Timbuktu, these US-based
multinationals sell billions of dollars worth of products.
But a growing number of international buyers are shunning goods
from these American companies in protest of Washingtons perceived
In Arab countries, many activist civic organizations, student groups
and professional associations are urging people to shun American
goods in favor of local and European alternatives.
Boycott organizers have drawn up lists of companies, mainly American,
that are thought to channel aid to Israel. Among them are companies
making products from cigarettes and medications to fast food and
laundry detergents. There are even Internet Web pages http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-israel.html
and http://www.boikottisrael.no dedicated to this cause.
So far, fast-food chains appear to be feeling the pressure the
Managers at KFC and McDonalds branches in the Omani capital
of Muscat say sales had fallen by 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively,
A senior executive at Kuwait-based Americana, which has exclusive
rights to operate several US franchises including Pizza Hut
and Baskin-Robbins across the Middle East, says that during
the past few months profits and sales fell by 45 percent in
Jordan, 40 percent in Egypt and 20 percent across the Persian Gulf
In Jeddah, Coca-Cola is the worst hit of the US brands, down 60
percent, says Ibrahim Mahrous, sales manager at the Bin Dawood supermarket,
in an interview with an international wire service. According to
experts, in Saudi Arabia Pepsi Cola sales are off 45 percent, and
Procter & Gamble Co. products, such as Pampers diapers, have
slid as much as 35 percent. Its turning very serious,
says Mahmoud El-Kaissouni, an executive with a Cairo-based industry
association representing 22 fast-food chains, including McDonalds,
Kenny Rogers Roasters and Little Caesar pizza. The number
of people going into these restaurants is less and less every day,
despite all that were doing.
The association has been leading a campaign on television to warn
of the threat to Egyptian jobs, he said.
In Morocco, the newspapers LEconomiste and Assabah have started
a campaign against the US dollar, printing a headline every day
urging Moroccans to avoid using the currency in their business dealings.
Boycott the dollar in your operations for the sake of Palestine.
Whenever possible, opt for the euro, says the advertisement.
Hamdy El-Sayed, director of the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate,
leads another boycott targeting American-made health care products.
His organization has sent doctors and pharmacies a list of US-made
medical supplies and tells them which local or European products
can be substituted.
We understand this is not economically effective, because
people would continue to buy American goods. This action has more
of a symbolic value than a real effect, says El-Sayed. In
Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, some private hospitals have stopped buying
products from drug makers, including New York-based Bristol-Myers
Specialists in international trade are not worried about the effect
on American drug makers, saying that the Middle East represents
only a small portion of its business.
Im wondering what they are using as alternatives over
there, says Douglas Christopher, analyst with New York-based
Crowell, Weedon & Co.
Christopher says that such problems are the risk that multinational
companies have to live with. Its just part of the political
risk thats there. Marie Driscoll, analyst with Argus
Research who follows several fast-food chains, agrees. She cites
McDonalds as a good example, saying that she tries to make
it clear to residents in foreign countries that somebody of their
own nationality likely owns their local McDonalds. They
hire locally and source things locally, so when people hurt McDonalds
thinking they are hurting America, they are really hurting the local
citizens the most, says Driscoll.
Nobody likes to see terrorism, and this is one of the ways
they counteract it, Driscoll adds. I think were
in a kind of a different world after Sept. 11 and dont know
if theyve addressed that. But I dont think that any