The nice people over at Coca-Cola invited me, along with 9 other bloggers and journalists from around the world, to visit Tanzania to explore and understand their social responsibility initiatives in this part of the world.
It was an exciting, eye opening and humbling experience. The words I write here, will not do this experience justice because until one tastes and touches this landscape for themselves, it is hard to describe the emotion that you see on people’s faces, it is hard to explain the number of lives that are being positively changed or how different this world is, to the one I live in. But I will try.
It was hot. I grew up in Durban so I am not unaccustomed to high humidity levels, but the humidity in Dar Es Salaam is stifling and suffocating. It’s that kind of heat that envelopes you and makes you instantly tired. If I had any hopes of slapping on some make up and GHD’ing my hair every day, they were dashed that first moment I stepped off the aeroplane. The city itself reminds me a lot of Thailand, the poor and the rich coexist; there are run down buildings next to posh hotels. It is surprisingly clean, and there are no beggars at every traffic light, although there are hawkers trying to sell you nuts and Coca-Cola at every stop. The traffic is insane but people don’t seem to be bothered by it like our resident-road-rage-joburgers.
Our first stop was at the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Dar Es Salaam. It was fascinating to witness the behind-the-scenes work that goes into that cold drink you buy in your local shop. We even got to see the secret syrup that makes Coke, COKE. This here, is a Buddy bottle:
We were then introduced to my most favourite project: #Projectlastmile. Isn’t it freaking ridiculous that you can get a Coke anywhere in the world, in the deepest darkest parts of Africa, in small villages which aren’t even on the map… and yet… people are dying from treatable diseases because they have no access to medicines. Not because there are no medicines. There ARE medicines. There are medicines which are reaching their expiry dates in warehouses. There ARE medicines which will change people’s lives. But. The medicines can’t reach the people. How sad is that? Coca-Cola have teamed up with USAID, The Global Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to share their business model, their distribution and logistical strategies to help African governments improve their medical supply chains. Thus reaching the Last Mile. Even as I write this, I get goose bumps. We’re all entitled to certain basic commodities, and it breaks my heart that some people don’t have access to the sort of stuff that I take for granted everyday. This project saves lives.
Another initiative which I have to mention is #5by20. In a nutshell, Coca-Cola has committed to empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020. These women are all previously disadvantaged, the women we met in Tanzania who are benefiting from this project all have an amazing story to tell. One cannot deny how this project has changed their lives, and the lives of not only their families, but the communities they live in. It’s incredible.
” The initiative addresses common barriers women face in the marketplace by providing access to business skills training, financial services and mentoring and networking opportunities. Coca-Cola collaborates with government, civil society and other businesses to customize 5by20 programs to address the needs of female entrepreneurs in specific countries.”
We visited Lillian, who now owns and runs a key distribution centre for Coca-Cola. She started her business with a small push-cart, she endured through a broken marriage which left her penniless, with one daughter. She has grown her business, with the help of Coca-Cola, and her distribution centre can now house 8000 cases of soda. It’s fantastic to witness.
We visited another market place where women are selling food (and Coke of course 🙂 ). Their stalls are powered by solar panels to cook and keep their fridges operational. They run these little stalls and are able to provide for their families, and again uplift the community by providing the service.
The last project we were introduced to was EKOCENTER. They call it a modular community market. It’s like a “shop” in the middle of an otherwise rural village. It looks quite out of place in its rural surroundings but the impact it is making on this village is incredible. Aside from the fact that it is run by local women entrepreneurs, and aside from the fact that you can buy your food and household items here without having to travel hours to the nearest town.. for me, the most BEAUTIFUL thing about EKOCENTER, is that is provides safe water and solar power. This is like a gift. A gift that we take for granted everyday, yet people right here on our planet, have been denied of it.
Over and above being exposed to these projects, we got to experience a day in Zanzibar. It was an amazing adventure of visiting a spice farm, Stone Town and spending 20 minutes in a rather rickety 12 seater plane… but that story I shall share with you another day.
It was an amazing experience, I got to meet some great people from around the world, and more so, I think when one’s eyes are opened to the great need that exists in the world, outside of your perfect little bubble, you cannot go back to being the person you were before.
While the Coca-Cola company sponsored the trip, I was not compensated in any way for writing about my experiences, nor was I asked to write about my experiences.