In April 1994, a plane carrying Juvénal Habyarimana, the president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, his Burundian counterpart, was shot down close to Kigali, the Rwandan capital. The assassination sparked the Rwandan genocide in which about 1-million people were killed. There is a macabre footnote to that tragic history. According to Olivier van Beemen’s provocative book, Heineken in Africa, both former presidents ended up in the Dutch beer company’s freezers. The anecdote underlines Van Beemen’s main theme — the disparity in power between one of the world’s most profitable brewers and the poor African countries in which it makes a slice of its profits. In both Rwanda and Burundi, Heineken had one of the few cool rooms in the country, doubling up as the state mortuary. The inequality of the relationship gives Heineken — and by extension other multinationals in Africa and in poor countries generally — huge sway. Heineken is often one of the biggest taxpayers in the countries in whi...

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