To explain my mission, I am starting here. Surrounded by empty shelves in the medicine store in a rural clinic in Africa. In Africa clinics run on stock levels of x% of what they need.
Stepping outside into the street I walk down to the local shop. It’s pretty well stocked. Products are freely available for sale and the prices are not that much higher than in the city. There is no black market in any of the products on sale.
So what’s happening here? Why the abundance of products available for sale in the store and the lack of products in the clinic? This is academically interesting but very distressing when you realise that in rural areas of Africa served by the under-stocked clinics, 1 in 5 children die before their fifth birthday from preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea. That’s 4,000 a day in Africa alone. This is a silent disaster of sunami proportions that unfolds day after day and year after year. The figures have not changed for at least the last 25 years. The product that is the most ubiquitous of all in these remote locations in Coca-Cola. If we could distribute simple medicines like oral rehydration salts with the same efficiency as Coca-Cola, we’d save thousands of young children’s lives. So let’s track a bottle of Coke back from here to the bottlers to try and understand how the system works.
It turns out that the Coca-Cola is delivered to the remote retail store by an entrepreneur on a bicycle. [Back story: Why does he do it? To pay for his kids to go to school? Have his children ever been ill? Have any of them died young?]
Nobody really knows the actual mechanism by which Coca-Cola gets to the remote parts of Africa – it is said that it’s ‘the pull of the brand’. This film would find out precisely how it works in one region of Africa.
He buys the crates of Coca-Cola from Grace who owns and runs a micro distribution centre. [Back story: What did Grace do before running her own distribution centre? How did she get started? How many children does she have etc]
Grace takes delivery a full lorry of Coca-Cola crates every 7-10 days. She swaps her empty crates and bottles (which she owns) for full ones.
The lorry leaving the bottling plant heading for Grace’s distribution centre.
Learning point: The whole process is profit driven every step of the way. Everybody involved is able to make money from their part in the process ON AN ON-GOING BASIS.
IDEAS: What if we used the same distribution channels for medicines as we do for Coca-Cola? What if we applied the same commercial principles to medicine distribution as we do to Coca-Cola? THEN: Medicines will get to the most remote of places where they are needed so desperately and thousands of lives would be saved. AND We would put money into the pockets of some of the poorest people in Africa (Grace and the guy on the bicycle).
[Flashback: This idea first came to me 20 years ago while working in a very remote and sparsely populated part of NE Zambia where slash and burn was the traditional form of agriculture]
[Flashback: Despite the remoteness, in most villages you could get a Coke] [Back story: 20 years ago in NE Zambia the only bit of communications technology we had was a telex machine – no post, no phone, no internet and so I failed to get any traction behind the idea]
Now we go back the rural clinic and found track that back to find out why that DOESN’T work. Where are the leakages/blockages? THEN Introduce the ColaLife AidPod idea . . . .
What if you used the unused space in a crate to carry medicines?