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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
'McAfrika' burger not to everyone's taste
Poster for 'McAfrika' in Norway
Some find the marketing campaign unpalatable

In Norway everybody is talking about McDonald's new hamburger - but not because it is exceptionally tasty or exciting.


We do agree to a certain extent this was bad timing

McDonald's spokeswoman
The "McAfrika" burger has provoked a row over whether it is appropriate to name fast food after a continent where millions of people are threatened with starvation.

The fact that this is happening in one of the world's richest countries has added to the controversy.

It all started last week when giant billboards appeared all around the Norwegian capital, Oslo, advertising the new hamburger, which claims to have a taste of Africa.

This has not, however, been to the taste of Norwegian aid agencies.

Direct action

"Launching a burger with such a name at the same time Africa is facing perhaps its worst hunger catastrophe ever is very bad timing," Tarje Wanvik of Norwegian Church Aid told BBC News Online.


I resent the aid organisations painting a picture of a continent full of hunger and despair

Akhenaton de Leon, anti-discrimination campaigner
Most other aid agencies, like Norwegian Red Cross and CARE Norway, have reacted in much the same way.

Norwegian Church Aid went a step further, and opted for direct action.

As an alternative to the controversial burger, they distributed high-energy biscuits used in food emergencies outside one McDonald's outlet in Oslo.

Most people ignored them and went for the meaty alternative offered inside the restaurant.

Support

But now the fast food chain has got support from an unlikely source. The organisation African Youth in Norway has attacked the aid organisations for focusing too much on negative aspects of the African continent.

McAfrika burger
Beef
Cheese
Tomatoes
Salad
Pitta-style bread
Lamisi Gurah heads the organisation, which represents young African people in the Oslo region:

"The word Africa does not need to be associated with war, hunger, aids and catastrophes all the time," she said.

"Finally we see someone who uses the continent's name in a positive way. Even though there is a terrible shortage of food in some areas of Africa, this is far from the situation all over the continent".

Lamisi Gurah's views were echoed by the leader of the Institution Against Public Discrimination in Norway, Akhenaton de Leon.

"I'm sick and tired of all the negative press Africa gets," he says.

"I really resent the aid organisations painting a picture of a continent full of hunger and despair."

Cooperation

McDonald's says it never meant to generate controversy.

Children at McDonald's
'McAfrika' is still on the menu
"We understand the criticism, and it was never our intention to offend anybody," a McDonald's spokeswoman in Norway, Margaret Brusletto, told BBC News Online.

"We do agree to a certain extent this was bad timing," she added.

But the fast food chain will not withdraw the campaign, which will run until mid-September as planned.

It looks as though the row could have a happy ending, however. Talks between some of the aid agencies and McDonald's indicate the aid agencies will end up getting a small bite out of "McAfrika".

The company has agreed to let Norwegian Church Aid into their Oslo outlets to profile the aid organisation's work fighting hunger in southern Africa.

But an idea voiced earlier of donating a percentage of the sale of the controversial burgers to aid organisations never got off the ground.

See also:

05 Aug 02 | Business
15 Jul 02 | Entertainment
27 Jun 02 | Entertainment
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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