24 March 2018
To stimulate beer sales, Heineken uses promotional girls in 10 African countries. This is evident from a new book by Olivier van Beemen. He spent more than five years researching the activities of Heineken in Africa. His book ‘Beer for Africa; the Best Kept Secret of Heineken’ released today under the publishing house Prometheus.
The promotional girls speak of being confronted with unwanted intimacies during their work. “Our employer thinks: if you do not want to be groped, you have to look for another job.” The girls are also pressured into having intercourse with their managers, without payment. Some of these girls are prostitutes at the same time, and they use the beer promotion to get in touch with customers.
A former employee of Heineken in Nigeria, who is familiar with the problem, confirms that this is happening. “Even at events organized by Nigerian Breweries, young promotional girls are hired and often the same thing happens: sex is regarded as a transaction in Nigeria, also at Heineken.”
The reason why Heineken did not tackle the problem was that, in Africa, the company had a successful project with free AIDS medicines for its staff and their family members. “It gave our people in the United States a great story. Nobody wanted it being ruined by African promotional girls who had to sell our beer under miserable circumstances. We did as if it was just a local custom. That’s the way they do it.”
That’s why Heineken, eighteen years after the first reports of abuses, still uses young women and their bodies to boost beer sales. “It is a marketing strategy to sexualize beer,” says Nigerian researcher Dumbili. “It confirms beer drinking as a male, heterosexual activity.”
The brewer acknowledges – in response to this story in NRC Handelsblad (see link to the complete article) – that sexual harassment “deserves more attention than it has received from us and other stakeholders in recent years.” The brewer promises to do more against abuses experienced by promotional employees in African countries.