Friday, February 27, 2009

Scenario #22: Where's the McDonalds?

Have you heard Thomas Friedman's theory about McDonalds? He argues that if two countries have McDonalds, they'll never go to war against each other. And this theory indirectly suggests that countries that get along will either have McDonalds (like the U.S. and the UK) or will not have McDonalds (like Syria and Iran). But the idea is that global economics trump conflict. If money is to be made in peacetime, then fighting isn't worth it.

So what does it mean when a country is cut off from the global economy, when a nation full of people who are enchanted by McDonalds doesn't get a McDonalds? Should the fact that Kosovo doesn't have a McDonalds lead me to be concerned that war will shortly be breaking out here?

One thing is for sure: there are people in Kosovo who would like to have a local McDonalds available to them. I have passed a number of trucks with the golden arches painted on the back. And I have already seen two Qebaptore's (Kebab houses) named McDonalds. Kosovo is enamored by McDonalds, is actively - nay, desperately, courting Ronald and his arches.

This is not surprising to me, since there are possibly more American flags and billboards of Bill Clinton here than there are in D.C.

So I've taken to asking people this question: "Where's the McDonalds?" The most common answer I'm getting is that McDonalds franchising rules require that they be functioning in a sovereign nation, and since until February 2008 Kosovo was not a sovereign nation, they weren't eligible for Mickie Dees. Kosovo has been sovereign for a year now, but from what I can gather, bids to open Ronald's franchise have been going on since last April. At least 800 Kosovar businessmen are vying for the privilege. But there's still no sign of any authentic big yellow "M's" being raised in Prishtina.

Today I heard another interesting explanation. Apparently Belgrade in Serbia is full of McDonalds, and McDonalds' corporate man in charge of the Balkans is Serbian, and Serbia and Kosovo are not on good terms. He has reportedly said that if a McDonalds is opened in Kosovo, he'll shut down all the franchises in Serbia. After all, if Kosovo has McDonalds, Serbia and Kosovo can't be enemies anymore! So, as long as the population of Serbia is five times that of Kosovo, the corporate empire will profit more from McDonalds in Belgrade than it will from McDonalds in Prishtina.

McDonalds is a symbol. It's a symbol of America, of ties to the "West", of capitalism, of a modern lifestyle, of a lifestyle revolving around comfort and convenience. To have McDonalds is to pay tribute to all these things... and to some extent, to the U.S.A., where it all began. It's also a symbol of being a player in the global market.

I have yet to find in Kosovo any of the big food chains: no KFC, Burger King or Hardees. There aren't any of the big supermarkets like Carrefour, much less an Ikea. In my last blog I mentioned the notable absence of the big oil companies and their petrol stations. There's no HSBC, as far as I can tell, and it's meant to be "the world's local bank." I haven't yet come across any original DVDs or CD's, only copies. Nor is there any Starbucks on the horizon. (On the upside, though, I can get Coke here, and there is a small, albeit horridly overpriced, Mac store.)

If Friedman was right, until McDonalds is opened here, I wonder how stable we can hope this country to be. Ironic, then, that McDonalds is unlikely to open here until they decide it's stable. Will this country ever get a break?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

I am Burim, a Kosovar citizen writing to you from Pristina.
I have read your article about "No Mcdonalds in Kosovo" and I have to say that I fully agree with you. If only I may add another point. It is sad and utterly unclear to me (as I suppose it is to you) why is McDonalds still hesitant for opening in Kosovo when as you stated Kosovo is by far the most pro-US Country in the World today. There is however one excuse that I heard and that I can never accept and that is "the lack of stability and/or security in Kosovo" and I will explain this very simply. If you have the time and follow the situaion in the Balkans u will notice that whenever there is riot (Nationalist or other) in Serbia and even in Macedonia the first targets are usually McDonalds restaurants as the simbols of "US Capitalism", and yet amazingly in less than 24h they are refurbished and reopened. If this is the measure of "sufficient security" for McDonalds Corp. than I must say Kosovo is without any doubt one of the safest Countries in the World. Thank you. e-mail: burim_kllokoqi@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Hello All,

I have heard that McDonalds will be coming to Kosovo and that son of Fatmir Sejdiu,currently Kosovan president will hold the right to franchise. I must say it just goes to show how such a corrupted gonvernment can do anything it wants. Recently I have seen some vidoes of the current government dealing with Serbs and how they have good relationship, in other hand they come on TV and pretend to be PATRIOTS. Today am learning from you that a Serb is in charge of all franchise for Balkans etc... Well the PATRIOTS do not exist anymore in KOSOVA. I also wonder how the son of Mr Sejdiu got his money?? A father being a key leader of corruption? or perhaphs some road tenders? WAKE UP Kosovan people, the reach people are getting reacher and poorer are getting poorer. I welcome McDonalds though I must say I was not surprised that someone is high authoritive position got/will get the franchise, though perhaps they wont know anything about franchising....

In addittion as a Kosovar I do not see any security for foreign firms investing in Kosovo, remember CITI Bank they came and went other companies rather go to Montenegro or Serbia rather than in Kosovo!! Guess why? Our country is fully corrupted and where there is a mist in the air you can easily get lost you know..

Burim Kllokoqi said...

Dear mr. Anonymous, its me Burim again. We are already in March 2010 and what a surprise... still no Mcdonalds in Kosovo, neither there is any expectation of one opening soon. I read your comments and I am having a hard time digesting that you are indeed from Kosovo as I don't recall that there is another case in the World where someone uses such patologic missleading and rather overpumped arguments about his own Country. I am not sure what business Mr. Sejdiu's son has or what fortune he owns, believe me i wish I did but I am not a prosecutor or a judge and neither are you, my friend. To that effect, let me hit you with a fact; Mr. Sejdiu's son just opened a Taxi company in Pristina called "London Taxi" and guess what - he is not the only one opening a business in Kosovo but its exactly people like you that make investers reluctant on even thinking about it. You mention CitiBank came and left Kosova because of some kind of corruption? Are you serious? Do I have to remind you that Kosovo has the most stabile and modern Banking system in the entire South-Eastern Europe? This aknowledgment is not made by us but by respective World Banking institutions and magazines. Do I honestly have to remind you that Kosovo banking system is maybe the only one in Europe that did not suffer any damage during the Global recesion period because of excellent management? Finally, do I have to remind you that just some of the Banks currently operating in Kosovo are Raifeissen, ProCredit, NLB and BNP Paribas (and all of them being international highly-respected Banks)? I will say again, I did not hear anything about a McDonalds restaurant opening neither by him or by anyone else in Kosovo in the near future and you can use your weird science fiction, half-intelectual, complexed ideas as to why that is but the reason is rock-solid and simple: Serbs own the McDonalds franchising in this part of the Balkans and as long as they are "in charge" nothing will change in this context. I can guarantee to you right now that in a few months time I can write again in this same coloumn a similar comment with the same topic - still no McDonalds in Kosovo. Thank you. e-mail: burim_kllokoqi@hotmail.com

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