Opinion| How boycotting in the Middle East affects Western brands

Dr. Ashraf Kordy
7 Min Read

Western brands and franchises that are seen as supporting Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip have faced a wave of boycott campaigns in the Middle East. These campaigns have attracted a lot of attention and participation, especially from the younger generation, who have become more conscious of the Palestinian cause and are actively boycotting Western brands in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This article explores the reasons behind these boycott campaigns, compares them to international sanctions, and examines their economic consequences. We will also look into the role of social media in spreading and organizing these campaigns, analyze international reactions, and discuss the emergence of local companies and brands as alternatives to the boycotted ones. Finally, we will consider the possible future developments in this changing scenario.

Dr. Ashraf Kordy
Dr. Ashraf Kordy

The Growth of Boycott Campaigns in Egypt and the Middle East

The boycott campaigns in Egypt and the Middle East have reached a new level of intensity, inspired by the boycott of Apartheid South Africa and the global “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)” movement that was launched in 2005 by Palestinian groups, unions, and resistance committees. These campaigns aim to challenge Israel’s policies and have had a significant impact on Western brands operating in the region.

Western brands such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and KFC have suffered greatly from the boycotts. Branches in Egypt and Jordan have seen a sharp drop in sales, with some being called “almost empty.” Starbucks, for example, saw a 70% decrease in sales in October and November compared to the same period last year. The offers and discounts that these companies have given have not been able to end the boycott crisis.

Economic Consequences and Comparison to International Sanctions

The economic consequences of these boycott campaigns are clear, with Western brands losing sales and struggling to keep their market share. However, it is important to note that the impact on the overall economy, especially in terms of capital loss, is still being evaluated. In comparison, international sanctions imposed by countries like the United States on countries like Russia and Iran have different objectives and methods.

While US sanctions mainly aim to pressure governments and change their actions, boycott campaigns in the Middle East are driven by ordinary people and seek to raise awareness of specific issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The effectiveness of these campaigns lies in their ability to mobilize the people and create a united voice that pressures Western brands to rethink their support for Israel.

The Role of Social Media in Organizing Boycott Campaigns

Social media has played a vital role in promoting and organizing these boycott campaigns. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have offered a space for people to share information about which brands are seen as supportive of Israel and should be avoided. Apps and websites have also appeared, listing alternatives to Western brands and highlighting local producers of equal or similar quality.

The use of hashtags, such as #BoycottStarbucks or #SupportLocal, has helped spread the message and mobilize a wider audience. Young people, who were previously detached from the Palestinian cause, have become more aware of the disaster and actively participate in boycotting Western brands. Social media has provided a powerful tool for these individuals to make their voices heard and create real impact.

International Reactions and Perspectives

The boycott campaigns against Western brands that support Israel have elicited mixed reactions from the international community. Some regard them as a valid form of protest and a way to pressure these brands to change their stance on Israel. Others contend that these boycotts hurt the economic interests and well-being of Egyptian workers who are employed by these franchises.

These boycott campaigns also reflect a wider global phenomenon of consumer activism. People are more aware of the social and political consequences of their consumption decisions, and they use their buying power to advocate for causes they care about. The boycott campaigns in the Middle East demonstrate this growing trend and show the impact of collective action on corporate behavior.

The Emergence of Local Companies and Brands

A notable consequence of the boycott campaigns is the rise of local companies and brands that have seized the opportunity to fill the void left by Western brands. Egyptian brands such as Cilantro and Koffee Kulture have enjoyed increased popularity as consumers look for alternatives to boycotted brands like Starbucks.

This offers a golden chance for Egyptian products to satisfy domestic demand and also enter international markets. Egypt, with its large and diverse consumer base and competitive prices, can support and enhance its industries, such as the food and technology sectors. By investing in training, expanding new markets, and facilitating export support, Egyptian producers can position themselves as leading national brands and compete on a global level.

Conclusion and Future Developments

To sum up, the boycott campaigns in Egypt and the Middle East have revealed the power of collective action and consumer activism. These campaigns have challenged Western brands to rethink their support for Israel and have created opportunities for local companies and brands to flourish. Moving forward, it is vital to balance supporting local production and exports with considering the potential economic effects for Egyptian workers who work for these franchises. The future holds great promise for the growth and development of Egyptian industries, and it is up to stakeholders to grasp this opportunity and drive progress in the country.

As the world becomes more interconnected and consumer activism continues to influence corporate behavior, it is important to stay alert and informed of the social and political implications of our consumption choices. By supporting local industries and boycotting brands that support Israel, individuals can help create a more fair and peaceful world. 

Dr. Ashraf Kordy – Board Member, Egyptian Chamber of Commerce of Giza, Founder and CEO, EAR Media and OOHData 

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