Beverages giant Coca-Cola is establishing a worldwide network of technical facilities to support a greater focus on emerging markets.

The US firm opened a $6m South African technical centre in March, one of three locations selected to enhance a global support framework for analytical testing across its operations, which already includes US and Belgian facilities.

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The opening of the South African laboratory follows the creation of a similar facility in China last year and precedes the opening of a further technical centre in Mexico, in January 2009.

The laboratories will safeguard product quality, drive innovation and support long-term growth in emerging markets, according to director of global laboratory operations John Ward. He said: “Mexico and Africa are not new markets but are expanding rapidly so we need to extend our technical capability throughout those regions at a local level, whereas historically our capability was predominantly centred around the Atlanta (US) head office and Brussels.”

The South African facility opens at a time when the country’s infrastructure capacity has been strongly called into question. Power shortages have paralysed industry over the past six months and are likely to continue until 2013 when infrastructure improvements, led by the government and national power supplier Eskom, will be fully implemented.

However, the power shortages did not sway Coca-Cola’s decision to invest in Johannesburg. Mr Ward said: “South Africa is a major supply base and the Coca-Cola Africa group’s senior management location so it makes a logical support location for our African business.”

Coca-Cola’s technical centre requires constant power supply – to protect data integrity and equipment from power surge damage. Mr Ward said: “We have initiatives to minimise overall energy use, battery back-up systems to power-sensitive instruments during blackouts, and back-up generator systems to run the remaining infrastructure.”