Last Mile Distribution is a global term used by socio economic development practitioners and refers to how you get goods and services out to the last rural mile. There are many social innovation products which aim to offer quality of life improvements for people in these areas for example solar lights, cleaning burning stoves for indoor cooking, fortified nutrition, water carriers, affordable health and hygiene products, to name but a few. The biggest challenges to working with this market are: how do you distribute products to this given that there are no conventional logistics channels; how do they afford products which are expensive upfront but will save them money in the longer term and lastly; how do you educate people about the benefits. People with very limited income are reluctant to change from something familiar which they trust to something new for example, moving from paraffin to solar.
SAB Foundation partnered with SaveAct, an organisation that works with more than 50 000 people offering financial literacy and setting up structured savings groups where people can both save and earn interest on their savings. The intention was not just distribution of products but creating self-employment for people in these areas to become sales agents of a catalogue of products – some of which are previous SAB Foundation social innovation award winners. A pilot conducted in 2016 saw 15 people trained and operating as sales agents in rural areas surrounding Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. The pilot was deemed a success, so 2017 will see us scale up this work to other areas where savings groups exist.