Systems Logistics beverage project
Last Mile service delivery is rapidly becoming a hot topic in development. Governments and aid agencies are realizing that the real challenge in getting services to people is rarely a lack of funds, but rather a lack of sound management principles on the part of developing countries’ public sectors to deliver much needed services to their most remote regions, the so-called “last mile.” A recent report by McKinsey & Co. argues for the need to engage the private sector, particularly large multinationals, to tap into their expertise for delivering common household products to remote regions in developing countries.
I first heard about The Coca-Cola Company’s “Project Last Mile” from a TEDTalk given by Melinda Gates in 2010, where she asks the simple question, “if Coca-Cola can get their beverages to remote regions around the world, why can’t governments and NGOs deliver social products such as medicines and condoms with the same degree of success?” This talk was the inspiration for Project Last Mile, in which Coca-Cola has entered into public-private partnerships with Ministries of Health across Africa, sharing knowledge on their distribution networks and delivery systems. The project was piloted in Tanzania, and is currently in early expansion stages into Ghana and Mozambique. Through my internship with Coca-Cola in Johannesburg, South Africa, I am tasked with preparing an initial concept paper on launching a similar project in South Africa.
Within the public health field, there is a fair amount of skepticism toward the notion of Coca-Cola engaging with the health sector on issues that are admittedly outside of its core competency. After all, medicines are incredibly different products from a bottle of soda—they have to be handled and packaged differently, and by specially trained people, as they have temperature-sensitive transportation requirements and strict expiration dates. I’ll admit I was suspicious that Melinda Gates’ question was naïve, and that Coca-Cola’s interest in drug delivery was more of a publicity stunt than an innovative development solution.
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