Coca-Cola Co has said it will spend $30m over the next six years to improve access to safe drinking water across several African communities.

The move, which comes under the soft drinks giant's Replenish Africa Initiative, aims to help provide at least 2m Africans with clean water and sanitation by 2015, Coca-Cola said today (16 March).

"Africa's water crisis threatens the health of its population and, therefore, its prospects for economic growth," said Coca-Cola president and CEO Muhtar Kent.

"Communities need strong, healthy people to thrive, and our business needs strong, healthy communities to grow and be sustainable. Helping African communities tackle their water challenges is an important priority for our company and our bottling partners and is an area where we can make a positive and lasting impact."

A growing number of people in Africa are living without access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organisation, It previously predicted that the number of people lacking access to safe water would rise by 47m between 2004 and 2015.

Coca-Cola, which has been stung by allegations of misusing local water supplies in emerging markets in the past, said that it is working with non-governmental organisations and local authorities through its Coca-Cola Africa Foundation.

The US-based firm has a three-pronged global water strategy entitled: 'Reduce, Recycle, Replenish'.

Salvatore Gabola, director of public affairs for Coca-Cola Europe, told a briefing in London last week that sustainable water usage sits alongside a range of environmental issues that have become a "central" part of Coca-Cola's business model in recent years.   

Speaking at the briefing, held jointly with the WWF, Gabola said that one of the main challenges faced by the firm is how to communicate the importance of responsible water use to local bottlers and plant managers.