The Global Fund has committed nearly US$2 billion to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs in Tanzania. But the biggest challenge has always been the last mile: how do we get drugs and commodities to the remote villages in Tanzania? This requires more than financing; it requires specific expertise.
While a Coca-Cola product can be found everywhere, essential medicines are not always available in rural areas. It is widely recognized that the Coca-Cola Company has unparalleled expertise in distribution and supply management worldwide. In Africa in particular, its network of local bottlers is critical to reach consumers. In 2010, the Coca-Cola Company launched a pilot project alongside the Global Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to transfer core expertise to Tanzania’s Medical Stores Department, which distributes medical supplies across the country. This initiative is called Project Last Mile.
As part of Project Last Mile’s work in Tanzania, the Medical Stores Department and partners co-designed new processes and tools for forecasting, procurement planning, distribution and managing supplier relationships, and reported ability to improve medicine availability in some pilot regions by up to 20 percent.
The partnership lays down the foundations of a new model through which the private sector meaningfully impacts health outcomes through leveraging and applying core business expertise to global health challenges. Building on promising results in Tanzania and an additional pilot in Ghana, the Project Last Mile partnership was expanded in 2014 to include new partners, including USAID and The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, with a goal to support 10 countries by 2020. With Global Fund support, Project Last Mile has supported ministries of health in Tanzania, Ghana and Mozambique, with an upcoming program in Swaziland. Additionally, Project Last Mile is supporting programs with other partners in Nigeria and South Africa.
Through The Coca-Cola Company’s partnership with (RED), additional support is contributed to Global Fund programs in Africa to purchase HIV/AIDS medication and distribute prevention information.