Wednesday, June 29, 2011

If It's Not PR, it Will Probably Never Get Published

But if it is PR, it will be bounced about like a genuine human interest story. You may have read about Coca Cola being the only institution that gets to the remotest villages in Tanzania? And that's why the unscrupulous multinational will now receive large sums of money to distribute their toxic products?

In fact, there are many products that reach even the remotest villages, too many to list. If there's money to be made, naturally, someone is there to provide the transport. But in Tanzania, we are led to believe, no one has that sort initiative, except Coke.

So, in a 'public-private' partnership, Coke will distribute antiretroviral drugs to HIV positive people. For those won don't know, the 'public' bit means that money destined for aid work goes to private industry, often without any question of competition, appropriateness, effectiveness, etc.

It's interesting to bear in mind that the remotest villages usually have the lowest rates of HIV. But those same remote villages are most in need of cheaper drugs for things like respiratory problems, diarrheal diseases, intestinal parasites, drugs that are so cheap, even Coke can't make a profit from distributing them.

Will Coke distribute anything else that HIV positive people need? Or is it just drugs? Surely the care of HIV positive people requires more than just drugs? How about trained personnel, medical facilities and equipment, day to day medical supplies? But no, Coke is not interested in helping to develop Tanzania's health infrastructure. That would be too much like philanthropy.

And talking of philanthropy, those paragons of the stuff, Gates and Co. are involved in Coke's generous measures to increase their profits and possibly bolt on a (very) small part of the country's ailing health infrastructure. In fact, Melinda Gates is one of the people who has often trumpeted the plight of poor Coke, who are so generous that they need aid money to help increase their profits to extortionate proportions.

Incidentally, Gates mentions the Mererani Tanzanite mine and how hard it is to reach it from Kilamanjaro International Airport because of the state of the roads. I don't think the roads would still be in such poor condition if the mines had to depend on them. And Gates didn't mention the fact that the mine has an unenviable record itself, with a minimum wage of 120 dollars, despite its massive profits.

Make no mistake about it, there are many enterprising Tanzanian transporters and distributors who would willing take on the job of distributing drugs, not just HIV drugs, and at a fraction of the cost that Coke will be extracting from the cause.

The article does mention a little about Coke's foul record when it comes to corporate social responsibility but focuses on the multinational's supply chain. Yet, there are others in Tanzania whose reach is just as broad as Coke's. The article would be better to expose the 'story' for what it is, blatant PR. Though you can't expect the Gates Foundation to notice these things; strengthening multinationals is one of their main aims.



Joyful said...

It bothers me that in travelling in Africa even the smallest and remotest villages have coke bottles strewn about.

Simon said...

Hi Joyful, yes, I resent having to see their huge ads all over the place.