If you can find a bottle of Coca-Cola anywhere in the world, why not life-saving medicines?

That critical question inspired the 2009 launch of a partnership between Coca-Cola, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Project Last Mile,” which uses Coca-Cola’s supply chain, distribution, logistics and marketing expertise to help African governments get vital medicines and supplies the “last mile” to remote, hard-to-reach communities, launched in 2010 in Tanzania and expanded to Ghana in 2013.

Today, Project Last Mile’s founding partners and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced plans to expand the partnership to eight additional African countries over the next five years, starting with Mozambique. The coalition will invest more than $21 million, plus significant in-kind resources.

“Africa has been a vital part of our business for more than 85 years, and we’re committed to doing our part to help people across Africa live healthier and more active lives,” said Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent. “We’re honored to use Coca-Cola’s expertise to improve the distribution of medicine and medical supplies… it’s wonderful to be able to help more people enjoy better access to life-sustaining and life-enhancing medicines.”

The initiative leverages the complementary expertise and resources of the four partners, along with Yale’s Global Health Leadership Institute, Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) and the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF). The partners build capability within government agencies responsible for managing the procurement and distribution of essential medicines and medical supplies on how to forecast demand for medicines and better market their availability, and to properly maintain coolers to store medicines and vaccines at the correct temperature. 

“As a result of Last Mile, we have been able to implement professional practices that have improved our planning, distribution and performance management processes. This has improved our capability to consistently deliver critical medical supplies throughout Tanzania,” said Cosmas Mwaifwani, director general of the Medical Stores Department in Tanzania. “Since we began working with our partners in 2010, we have been able to increase the availability of medicines in medical clinics by 20-30 percent in some places where we have implemented the direct distribution model. Additionally, the partners have shared distribution tools with us to enable us to efficiently reach more than 5,500 health facilities."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost half of all people in Africa lack access to essential medicines, due largely to supply chain inefficiencies, poor infrastructure and limited transportation resources.

“Project Last Mile’s partners and collaborators have combined strengths to develop a solution to the challenge of providing access to critical medicines and medical supplies in remote African communities,” said Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund. “Together, we are providing innovative and more efficient ways to deliver medicines to public healthcare clinics on behalf of the Ministry of Health.”