UK retailer John Lewis is the latest to implemement a buy one, donate one program in Africa - with a twist

Value Chains

UK retailer John Lewis is the latest to implemement a buy one, donate one program in Africa - with a twist

Two Kenyan school boys play soccer. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/teachandlearn/2861273492/sizes/l/in/photostream/">Teachandlearn (Flickr)</a>
Two Kenyan school boys play soccer. Photo: Teachandlearn (Flickr)

A small African company that got its seed money from a grant has just received a major endorsement. Alive & Kicking will now have their brand, Balls for Africa, sold by a major retailer in the UK.

John Lewis, a national department store, has made an agreement in a ‘buy one, donate one’ model. John Lewis has agreed that for every ball sold, another will be donated to a school or children’s group in Kenya. This differs from the often-cited Tom's Shoes One for One program—here, the product is sourced directly from the country it benefits.

Alive & Kicking started its project in 2009 with a grant from the UK’s Department of International Development. All of the balls are made in Africa and approximately half remain there and are sold at local retail shops.

This venture is only the latest in a line of companies who have launched a buy-one-give-one program doubly benefiting Africa. The products are relatively low-cost to manufacture but can be sold at higher prices in countries with a wealthier economy. "We are delighted to be the first UK retailer to stock Balls for Africa,” said Ben Rogers, sports buyer at John Lewis. “Every sale of a ball not only helps to support the family of the worker... but also offers children a chance to play, a luxury that we can take for granted.”

The sports balls are hand-stitched by workers in Kenya and Zambia before being shipped overseas. It appears that this is a positive marketing strategy for John Lewis because those in the UK have no problem paying a premium price for products that have a double social benefit—a donated sports ball and a job. Alive & Kicking has since grown into a self-sustaining business and employs around 120-150 people. Its success has enabled them to begin planning an expansion of the program into Ghana.

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