Barclays and GSK - Finalist in the Unilever Global Development Award

The Issues
  • Currently 2 billion people globally lack access to medicines and by 2035, the world will face an estimated shortfall of 13 million frontline health workers
  • By 2035, the world will face an estimated shortfall of 13 million frontline health workers
  • In Africa, almost half of the continent’s population live in extreme poverty and are unemployed.

Recognising they can achieve more together than by working alone, Barclays and GSK have created a self-sustaining model for communities in Zambia to make extra cash while boosting their general health.

Never before have a bank and pharma business teamed up to create social good. Here’s how and why

Many big businesses are coming to the realisation that their scale, scope and influence in the world enables them to play a key role in finding solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges – from climate change, to social inequality.

Transatlantic bank Barclays and the global healthcare company GSK are one such example. In a first-of-its-kind partnership between a bank and a pharma business, the two teamed up in July 2013 when the two businesses signed a memorandum of understanding. The aim: to test business models that could have the potential to boost access to healthcare, as well as supporting and enhancing economic livelihoods in some of the world’s most underserved communities.

Currently, two billion people globally lack access to medicines, and by 2035 the world will face an estimated shortfall of 13 million frontline health workers. The challenges are especially pervasive in Africa where almost half of the continent’s population live in extreme poverty.

Live Well

The partnership approached CARE International to help develop an enterprise model for a three-year pilot in Zambia. The three organisations recognised that a fundamentally different approach was needed; the conventional way of buying and selling healthcare products via a traditional retail store doesn’t make financial sense in rural Africa and doesn’t serve communities’ needs. The result: a social enterprise called Live Well, formally launched in 2015, with the added support of health focused NGO, Living Goods.

Live Well is a social impact driven enterprise, designed to address needs at a household level – raising awareness of health issues, increasing access to products that can aid health and wellbeing, and providing a network of trained Community Health Entrepreneurs (CHEs) to promote healthcare and sell the products door-to-door.

Why did the two businesses and an NGO embark on such a venture? According to Katie Hyson, Barclays’ VP in Citizenship and Reputation, both companies were experiencing similar barriers in terms of accessing the market in this pocket of Africa and both were keen to adopt an activity based on creating shared value. “The partnership set out with a vision to address sustainably unmet social and commercial challenges, rather than having a pre-defined solution in mind,” she admits. “We started a number of things before landing on the model we finally arrived at.”

Kovilin Govender, Deputy Barclays GSK Partnership Manager agrees. “Never before has a bank and a pharma company joined forces in such a way. This was about creating new routes to market. It was about having a long-term vision, failing quickly and knowing that we were in it for the long haul. We wanted to create a sustainable model that could be replicated – not just in Zambia, but across Africa – truly empowering local communities.”

“The model we have set up with Barclays and GSK is a much more sustainable way of working between corporates and NGOs. We are creating a business which will ultimately have a greater long term impact than if it was just a donor model.” Laurie Lee, CEO CARE International UK explains, “This is a unique partnership bringing together the skills of the private sector’s understanding of the consumer health markets, supply chains and establishing new businesses along with an NGO’s ability to work with remote communities living in poverty.”

A sustainable impact

Since Live Well started operating in 2015 the enterprise has supported and trained a network of over 400 male and female CHEs. All CHEs are from a mix of backgrounds and have varying levels of experience in health and business. The training they receive brings everyone up to the same level of knowledge and continues with mentorship and refresher training.

In 2016, Live Well impacted the lives of 500,000 people, either by a direct sale of a product or by increasing disease awareness in the communities visited by a CHE.

“Since becoming a Live Well CHE, people in my community see me as a health advisor and often call me in the night for advice. People trust me and I can see how important my role is to help my community when they can’t get medicine,” explains Jennifer Mwangala.

Live Well is a separate legal entity, incorporated in Zambia, acting as a for-profit company limited by shares. The two partners will continue investing and supporting Live Well over the next year to give it time to build a strong foundation.

  • For Barclays, the partnership aligns nicely with its Shared Growth Strategy, which seeks to unlock societal solutions through innovative products, services and new ways of doing business.

  • For GSK, the scheme aligns with its Africa 2020 Strategy with ambitions to build an African healthcare company with the capabilities and people to reach 80% of sub-Saharan Africa.

For CARE International, the initiative aligns with their goal of helping 200 million people from the most vulnerable and excluded communities to overcome poverty and social injustice by 2020.

Over the next two years, Live Well’s ambition is to build and continue supporting a network of 1,000 community health entrepreneurs and offer quality training that will support the strengthening of local Zambian talent and foster a culture of entrepreneurship.

Objectives of the Live Well initiative
  • Raise awareness of health issues
  • Increase access to products that can aid health and wellbeing
  • Provide a network of trained community health entrepreneurs (CHEs) to promote healthcare and sell the products door-to-door.