Finding the "Right Fit"

In Spring of 2009, a series of internal discussions at The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) focused on what the company could realistically offer to the partnership given their obligation to ensure profitability while meeting a social need. At the same time, a team at The Global Fund began searching for the right country to engage with on supply chain issues. Almost serendipitously, in June of 2009, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at The Global Fund released “An Audit Report on Global Fund Grants to Tanzania,” which found that Tanzania had serious challenges when it came to supply chain management. 

Through The Global Fund’s channels, a series of meetings were held in Tanzania in an effort to engage a wide array of stakeholders about the project and explore potential areas for collaboration. In what was later described as “a bit of a chicken and egg situation,” the representatives from TCCC and the Gates Foundation wanted to remain as open-minded as possible, first focusing on understanding the needs on the ground before offering any specifics of what they could provide. Although TCCC was looking to somehow leverage its expertise in supply chain management, the discussion would often fall back to various stakeholders’ suggestions that supplies could be carried on Coca-Cola’s trucks.  Nevertheless, champions within each organization remained optimistic about the potential for partnership and committed to "learn as we go," bringing skeptics along for the ride. 

Fortunately, it was not long before the representatives from TCCC and the Gates Foundation met Joseph Mgaya, Director General of Tanzania’s Medical Stores Department (MSD). MSD, an autonomous department of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, is responsible for the procurement, storage, and distribution of essential drugs and other medical supplies for all of Tanzania. If improving drug distribution was the ultimate goal of the project, then MSD was the pivotal organization to target. In addition to being a lynchpin in Tanzania’s health system, MSD was also led by a dynamic change agent who saw the potential value of TCCC’s extensive supply chain expertise. Reflecting his openness to explore the idea of the partnership, Mr. Mgaya recalled:

It was still a very raw idea but they came in, they had meetings with different people including myself, and obviously at the beginning everybody is shaking their heads because beverages, medicines, you know, it doesn’t add up… at face value that’s the first reaction. But I think once we started really thinking about it, it became obvious that there is something that could happen here in terms of learning how the Coca-Cola supply chain works, learning how the MSD supply chain currently works, and see what kind of best practices can be transferred from Coca-Cola to the MSD supply chain.”

In order to move the conversation from the conceptual level to the concrete, Tielman Nieuwoudt, a supply chain consultant, was brought in to do a comparative analysis of MSD and TCCC’s value chains. The findings of the rapid assessment were conclusive: there were several key areas of overlap between the two systems and tremendous potential for knowledge transfer.

With the green light to move forward, the partners realized that their limited capacity on the ground meant that they would need to find an appropriate implementing partner to manage the day-to-day operations. Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), the not-for-profit arm of the international consulting firm Accenture, provided the right fit. Not only did ADP have extensive expertise in project management and content support, its mission of channeling Accenture’s core business capabilities to organizations in the international development sector had the potential to add another layer of expertise to this budding “knowledge transfer” partnership. With the key partners now engaged, the first phase of Project Last Mile began in August 2010, setting into motion a novel public-private partnership centered on the transfer of core business expertise to improve the distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in Tanzania.

 Partners' Perspectives

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