When Rwandan President Paul Kagame visited our Atlanta headquarters in 2013, Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent promised to reciprocate with a trip to the fast-growing African nation when the company had established an EKOCENTER there.

What is EKOCENTER?

It's a social enterprise initative that we launched in 2013 to empower communitieis and enable the growth of our business and local economies, relying on public and private sector partnerships to operate sustainably. It functions as a modular community market run by a local woman entrepreneur that provides safe water, solar power, internet access and more.

Last week, Kent upheld his promise when Coca-Cola and a coalition of private- and public-sector partners celebrated the opening of a flagship EKOCENTER site in Ruhunda. The solar-powered facility will provide up to 25,000 local residents with access to a range of services – including wireless internet, mobile charging and purified water. It also includes a retail store, improved medical services, and the only fully lit football field outside Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.

“We launched EKOCENTER because we know that our growth and our partners’ growth can only be sustainable when the communities we serve are strong,” Kent said at a dedication ceremony attended by President Kagame, key stakeholders and community members.

“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.”

Infographic: EKOCENTER at a glance.

In Ruhunda, Ericsson helped build 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 centre. Pentair operates two water purification units providing up to 20,000 litres of safe drinking water daily, and Philips powers lighting for a new football field and surrounding areas, including the health centre.

Solarkiosk designed and operates the self-contained EKOCENTER, which is run by a woman entrepreneur and acts as a local retail store where solar solutions, basic necessities and Coca-Cola products are sold.

Muhtar Kent chats with President Kagame at the EKOCENTER dedication ceremony.

Kent said the new EKOCENTER – one of 20 operating in Rwanda – sets a “new gold standard for development.”

“I’ve never seen a more dynamic, more promising example of the power of partnerships than the one I’m seeing right here,” he added. “This new site will be a shining light to Coca-Cola’s worldwide system… one that shows what’s truly possible when people of good will work together. And, most importantly, it represents investment, growth and development, not through aid alone, but through truly sustainable economic operating models.”

Along with our partners we've opened more than 100 EKOCENTERs in seven countries. By the end of 2016, we plan to open at least 177 EKOCENTERs in 10 countries serving a potential population of approximately 1 million people. EKOCENTERs act as both a community centre and general store. The kiosks are modular by design to allow local communities to customise a site to their needs.

Find out more about the evolution of EKOCENTER.