The Coca-Cola Company today joined with Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Medshare, Pentair (NYSE:PNR), Phillips (NYSE:PHE), Solarkiosk and TIGO Rwanda (OTC:MIICF) to officially open a flagship EKOCENTER site in Ruhunda, Rwanda. The solar-powered site stands to benefit up to 25,000 local residents with access to services that have not been readily available, including wi-fi-enabled internet access, mobile charging services, a retail store, the only fully lit football field outside Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, improved medical services and purified water.
Speaking at the opening, Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, said: “We launched EKOCENTER because we know that our growth and our partners’ growth can only be sustainable when the communities we serve are strong. By working across the ‘golden triangle’ of business, government and civil society, we believe we can support increased local investment and help make communities like Ruhunda more economically and socially sustainable.”
Launched by Coca-Cola in 2013 as a social enterprise initiative to empower communities while enabling business and local economic growth, EKOCENTER relies on partnerships across the public and private sector to operate sustainably.
In Ruhunda, Ericsson helped construct a new mobile phone tower to provide connectivity while TIGO is providing 3G coverage for internet access; Medshare provides medicines to the government-run health center; Pentair operates two water purification units providing up to 20,000 liters of safe drinking water daily using a combination of technologies, including reverse osmosis; Philips powers lighting for the new football field and surrounding areas, including the health center; Solarkiosk designed and operates the new EKOCENTER, which is run by a women entrepreneur and acts as a local retail store where solar solutions, basic necessities and Coca-Cola products are sold.
Randall Hogan, Chairman and CEO of Pentair, EKOCENTER’s water purification technology partner, said at the launch: “We share Coca-Cola’s vision of creating sustainable economic models to ensure we have lasting impact. In this model everyone plays to their strengths, and together we can do much more than alone. Our engineers worked together with Coke’s engineers to design an innovative, durable safe water solution that is easy to operate on minimal energy in remote locations.”
Typically run by female entrepreneurs selling products and services, EKOCENTERs are solar-powered and self-contained, acting as both a community center and general store. EKOCENTERs are modular by design to allow local communities to customize a site to their needs. In some locations where drinking water access is limited, clean drinking water is a key EKOCENTER offering. In other locations, services such as mobile phone charging and internet access are more valuable.
Andreas Spiess, CEO of Solarkiosk, operating partner for EKOCENTER in Rwanda and four other African countries, said: “Africa is blessed with abundant sunshine and solar-powered energy solutions provide vast opportunities for the continent. We’re excited about the many natural synergies between our vision and Coca-Cola’s EKOCENTER to enable and empower communities.”
With the opening of the Ruhunda site, Coca-Cola and its partners have now opened more than 100 EKOCENTERs in seven countries. By the end of this year, the company plans to open at least 177 EKOCENTERs in 10 countries serving a potential population of approximately 1 million people.