January 18, 2018

Last Mile, Bridging the Access Gap in Tanzania

A key theme of the YGP Learning Journey is social entrepreneurship. During our 2017 Learning Journey in Tanzania, the YGP Members visited Anza, a startup accelerator in the Kilimanjaro region, and heard presentations from inspiring local social enterprises. One promising startup which had a profound impact on our members was Last Mile.

Electricity, feminine health products, clean water – are things many of us take for granted. Yet in Tanzania, 46% of the population does not have access to a clean water supply, 1 in 5 girls miss school due to menstruation and over 75% of Tanzanians go without power. Solutions exist for these problems, however, the biggest challenge has been the lack of access to needed products and services, caused by the limited distribution infrastructure.

Last Mile, has been working on bridging this access gap. The young organization works with  local agents to distribute life-changing products such as solar-powered lights, feminine hygiene products, and water filters – at an affordable price. Beyond the clear social impact these products can have on low-income families, Last Mile also aims to improve livelihoods by providing local employment opportunities.

We recently had the chance to catch up with Liz McNeil, the founder of Last Mile, and hear what her team has been up to since we visited them last summer. An enthusiastic Liz was kind to share three major updates.

The first update is that she was accepted into a bootcamp program from the organization Unreasonable East Africa, which supports social businesses to develop and grow. For this bootcamp, Liz travelled to Uganda for about a month, and has since been working on implementing key strategies that were identified during the bootcamp. The full implementation of the outlined plan is expected to last until March 2018.

Secondly, during August/September 2017, Last Mile collaborated with two organizations, Femme International and Viamo, to develop a proposal for the Period Project, a multi-layered menstrual health project.

Each organization is using their competencies to contribute to this exciting initiative. Viamo, is launching a hotline assisting with menstrual health questions. Femme International has focused on school level education, while  Last Mile will work on training and communication workshops, so the community knows the project ambassadors well. This collaborative project is planned to begin by March, 2018.

If you’d like to find out more about this initiative, you can check out the entry on Open IDEO, which has a very interesting open challenge on sexual and reproductive health education.

The last exciting plan Liz shared with us was that starting in January, Last Mile will be working on launching a solar training program, focused on developing life skills for young people. In partnership with a few community organizations, Liz aims to provide training and job opportunities for young people regarding the distribution of solar energy products.

With the World Cup happening in 2018, it is  a great time for solar products. Not only can solar products power a TV, but some even have TV’s and satellite included. Utilising the world’s biggest sporting event, Last Mile will have extra marketing support from the product suppliers, something they hope to leverage to develop this distribution program.

Completing the bootcamp, developing a new solar power distribution program with young people, and launching the Period Project – it looks like there’s plenty in the pipeline for Liz and her team early in 2018! We look forward to more updates from Liz as she reaches some of these next milestones.