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Producing millions of litres of the nation’s favourite soft drink is only part of what Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) does. Equally important is to get the product to where the people are, and South Africa is a very big country. One of the most familiar sights for road-users from the empty roads of the Northern Cape to the busy highways of Gauteng is the distinctive red lorries making sure the product gets to where it’s wanted, be a rural trading store or a supermarket in an upscale mall.

For many years, CCBSA has been helping develop a cadre of owner-drivers to operate these vehicles. The thinking is that people with a stake in their own business are likely to work hard and provide the kind of rapid turnarounds and customer service that CCBSA’s clients require.

At the same time, by helping people to acquire their own vehicles, CCBSA reckoned it would help create a new generation of entrepreneurs who, in turn, would employ others. A better supply chain for CCBSA, more opportunities for the owner-drivers and, ultimately, a stronger South African economy.

The impact of this scheme can be seen in the stories of the owner-drivers themselves.

Lebogang Dikgang is based in Polokwane though he hails from Joburg. He is the chief breadwinner for his family, and has been a driver his whole life, having learned the profession at his father’s knee.

Lebogang originally wanted to train as an accountant, but lack of finances prevented him from following his dream. After working for his father, he began working as a truck driver, and eventually took a Code 14 licence. For many years, he worked as a long-distance driver distributing the COused in making fizzy drinks.

However, he found the life unsatisfactory because he spent too much time away from his family. By chance, heard about the owner-driver programme when he was delivering at one of the depots. Determined to find something that would allow him to be closer to my family, he successfully applied to become an owner driver.

“My life has changed, I now run a family business working with my wife,” he says. “I am extremely happy now to own my own three trucks, and I also get to combine my twin passions for accounting and driving.”

He is also teaching his daughter the ropes as part of a succession plan to ensure the business will continue to flourish.

Lebogang’s success has also created jobs not only for his wife and daughter, but also for his drivers. He says he takes good care of his drivers because he understands the challenges they face on the roads.

The story of Dolly Seoke, another owner-driver, also illustrates the benefits that come from being a business-owner. Based in Midrand and with two children, Dolly’s husband was an owner-driver when he passed away unexpectedly in 2016. CCBSA offered to help her take over the business—even though she could not even drive a car.

Despite the fact that she was mourning her loss, she knew this was an opportunity to give her family the financial stability her husband’s death had robbed them of. She took driving lessons and in 2017 was able to take up CCBSA’s offer.

“I was worried about how I will provide for my kids, how the family would survive,” she says. “I went though the process and I now own one truck. I now manage to support my kids and my other family members. I am able to invest for my kids. I am able to use the skills I already have from managing my home. My future plan is to own three trucks.”

It just goes to show that with courage and determination, along with a helping hand from CCBSA, dreams can be realised, and disasters turned on their heads.

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