We have historically established stand-alone programs in each country, shouldering the costs of starting up and maintaining the requisite infrastructure. For the most part, we have focused on countries in large markets because it is easier to have a large impact there, and do it in a more cost-effective way. The cost of setting up an office in Benin (population 10 million) is essentially the same as setting one up in neighboring Nigeria (173 million). Expenses related to back office support, key staff and regulatory/legal issues tend to have a minimum threshold of cost regardless of the size of a country.
Increasingly, though, we are seeing the benefits of a regional approach that can serve the reproductive health needs of multiple countries, including smaller ones. French-speaking West and Central Africa is a region that encompasses nearly 200 million people in more than a dozen countries. Persistently high fertility rates are just one of a myriad of challenges facing the region.
To address this issue, DKT decided in 2015 to take a page from the playbook used by multinational companies, and established a regional platform that requires fewer financial resources per country (and streamlined back office support), and leverages the common language, culture and regulatory environment of the region.
In Latin America, we are adopting a similar strategy. From well-established social enterprises in Mexico and Brazil, DKT has been expanding its reach and impact in neighboring countries. Leveraging the already strong infrastructure, finance and administrative systems and powerful brands, DKT is extending to most of South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Early results from these platforms are encouraging, and DKT has started sales of condoms and reproductive health products in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. In Latin America, DKT now sells condoms in Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Uruguay. DKT is working on bringing a full range of other family planning products to these and other countries in the near future.
Will the regional approach be as powerful as if we had full staffing on the ground in every country? No. But available resources do not always permit this option. Instead, to have a powerful impact and be sustainable over the very long term, we should adapt to the financial and programmatic realities of our environment. This is how successful for-profit companies think and we believe it is how nonprofits should think as well.