As Uber Eats celebrates its 5th birthday in South Africa, it is time to reflect on how far the online delivery industry has come. While most economic sectors and traditional businesses have been battered by Covid-19 and the lockdown responses to the pandemic, the online food delivery industry has grown exponentially over the past 18 months - demonstrating the kind of resilience and flexibility that will drive its continued expansion and success long after the Covid-19 virus has eventually been brought under control.
That’s according to Nakampe Molewa, recently appointed general manager for Uber Eats sub-Saharan Africa, who says he is excited about joining the business at a time when he believes it is poised for potentially explosive growth.
The platform has grown substantially, with the app now being available in 27 cities across South Africa “The online food delivery market is a sunrise industry with the potential for massive development and expansion, not just in sub-Saharan Africa, but across the continent,” he says, “and when you consider that, in South Africa and Kenya alone, where Uber Eats currently operates, the potential market for our unique brand of technology-driven food delivery services amounts to over 30 million people, we have just scratched the surface so far, and there is virtually unlimited potential for Uber Eats to grow in the coming years.”
Throughout the last year and a half, Uber Eats has continued to increase the number of grocery stores and local shops, and broaden the selection of everyday products available on the app, to help facilitate the daily life of South Africans.
More and more Uber Eats users are adopting home delivery of groceries as groceries and essentials have grown by 1860% since inception in March last year.
During the recent Level 4 lockdown in South Africa, Uber Eats data showed that categories of products like grocery, convenience and pharmacy have grown by 28%, 13% and 32% respectively, through the Uber Eats app across South Africa. Essential product purchases via the app have also spiked during this period with items such as toilet paper growing by more than 100% in sales followed by bread at 46% and personal care goods such as deodorant, increasing by 11%.
“Uber Eats has become a trusted marketplace for merchants to continue to operate efficiently through the lockdown and provides them with a service to reach more customers who are looking to order online. More importantly, this has unlocked further earnings for delivery people,” Molewa concludes.
“I’ve worked extensively in strategic roles in Africa that have allowed me to observe, first hand, the massive potential that exists on our continent,” Molewa says, “and while obvious challenges are ranging from infrastructure and regulatory uncertainty to sometimes limited access to technology and financial services, the opportunities for business growth far outweigh these minor hindrances.”
For now, though, Molewa is fully focused on growing the Uber Eats business in South Africa and Kenya by focusing on getting what he says is the basic formula of online food delivery correct. “What we do isn’t rocket science,” he explains, “it’s a simple formula that, when done well, will ensure our sustainable success.”
He says that, for Uber Eats, this success formula essentially involves two pillars. The first is ensuring that customers, or Eaters as they are known in the Uber Eats world, have access to an extensive selection of the most popular food choices that meet their cost and dietary requirements. The second success pillar is to be innovative in your approach, and grow the choices that Eaters have access to in ways that allow them to be as adventurous as they want and expose themselves to new food experiences that they may not have otherwise considered.
“One of the most appealing aspects of both Kenya and South Africa for international tourists is the diverse cuisine experiences they offer, but ironically, there are many South Africans who have never been exposed to these exceptional food options,” he explains, “and Uber Eats is in the privileged position to be able to bring these uniquely African eating experiences right into the homes of its customers, at minimal cost and maximum convenience.”
Molewa is adamant that the Uber Eats business model means that the business doesn’t just stand to benefit from Africa’s potential, it also has the means to contribute tangibly to the economies of the countries in which it operates.
“Not only is Uber Eats creating unique work opportunities, but our operations also have a positive knock-on effect for restaurants, merchants and delivery-people,” he explains, “and when you consider the ability that we have to rapidly, and massively scale up our business, the potential for us to multiply these economic benefits within the increasingly young and urbanised populations of South Africa and Kenya is immense.”