Tanzania has been picked as a test ground for a new concept that seeks to use Coca-Cola’s extensive distribution system to deliver medicines and health messages to remote areas.
Under the model dubbed ColaLife, a cylindrical aid pod with oral re-hydration salts will replace one of the Coca-Cola bottles in a crate and another one will be placed on top of a row for easy access.
“If the model works in Tanzania, it will be replicated in the developing world,” said Simon Berry, who developed the concept.
Other products that can be placed in the pod include malaria pills, water purification tablets, vitamin A tablets and medicines.
Coca-Cola will be the first beverage company to use its vast distribution system to help fix Africa’s drug distribution problem and intervene in the public health services of vulnerable communities.
The Tanzanian company Simba Plastics, which manufactures ice boxes for Coca-Cola, will produce the re-usable aid pod packaging, which fits into the established company’s reusable bottles system.
“What happens when the medicines arrive at its destination should be determined by local experts, with the long term responsibility for public health,” said Mr Berry.
Officials from Coca-Cola said the company has already committed itself to the trials before the end of this year. However, they have not yet agreed to fund it, nor defined the rollout timetable of the concept after a successful trial in Dar-es-Salaam.
Contents of the aid pod will be determined by local health professionals, especially those with responsibility for public health in the ministries of health and non-governmental organisations.
ColaLife is also using the latest Internet-based social tools like Facebook and Twitter to mobilise support for the idea.
ColaLife officials said their focus would be to get the Tanzania trial monitored properly but cautioned that this would mean several parties working together, not just ColaLife and Coca-Cola.
Health professionals, together with local communities and authorities, will determine the distribution systems of the contents beyond the Coca-Cola crate, ensuring that they get to the right people and are free of charge.