Medical Supply Solutions in Tanzania Overview

Public-private partnerships are now a prominent feature in the global health landscape. While these partnerships offer great promise, some claim that the full potential of private sector partners to help address the world’s most pressing development challenges is largely unrealized.

In 2009, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) embarked on a journey to create a new type of partnership model. Instead of “simply writing a check,” TCCC sought to transfer its core business expertise in supply chain management to its public sector partner, the Medical Stores Department (MSD) of Tanzania. Together with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), TCCC and MSD launched the Supply Chain Transformation Project in 2010. Later renamed to Project Last Mile, this established a novel partnership model that leveraged the global brand recognition of Coca-Cola and focused on the transfer of core business expertise to improve the distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in Tanzania.

Project Last Mile Timeline 2009-2013

*Denotes only month and year known.

The motivation for the partnership began with a simple question: if you can find a bottle of Coca-Cola anywhere in the world, then why not medicine? Although TCCC had previously attempted to leverage its extensive distribution system to improve access to medical supplies, most of these attempts were associated with disaster relief as opposed to proactive, sustained partnerships. Prior efforts had largely centered on transporting products such as condoms and bed nets on the back of Coca-Cola trucks. As one executive from TCCC reflected, they soon realized that distributing medical supplies “turned out to be a lot more complicated than anybody thought” as the Coca-Cola trucks would transport medical supplies only to find “no distribution system on the other end.”

Despite TCCC’s willingness to “activate” its distribution system to improve health, a great deal of uncertainty revolved around brining this idea to life. Then in 2009, a novel idea emerged from a series of high-level conversations between TCCC, The Global Fund, and the Gates Foundation. Instead of physically transporting medical supplies or donating money, what if TCCC could share another critical resource: its expertise in supply chain management?

With a mix of excitement and trepidation, the partners launched Project Last Mile, a “knowledge transfer” partnership that represented a novel attempt to leverage private sector expertise to address public sector issues. The question remained, however, of whether TCCC would be able to translate its knowledge of beverage distribution to the complex supply chain of medical supplies. And could such a “knowledge transfer” partnership be replicated in the future?