In December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced Prime Air, a plan in which drones will deliver goods in 30 minutes, but the e-commerce business has skyrocketed even in remote locations in Africa, continent that has decided to create its own electronic commerce market. African drone delivery is addressed thanks to a new initiative named the Flying Donkey Challenge, a 24-hour race around Mount Kenya in which companies must prove that drone delivery is feasible in order to win a prize of over $1 million. However, while the world has its eyes set on this initiative, Nigeria’s e-commerce potential is thriving.
Although Lagos is not Africa’s capital city, its number of inhabitants is between 17 and 21 million and statistics show that approximately 30,000 people arrive on a weekly basis from all around Africa. While Lagos is getting bigger, delivery is becoming more of a challenge, reason why this part of Africa has decided to create its own Amazon and shift the spotlight from fixing the roads to focusing on properly using the air space. In Nigeria, e-commerce companies have replaced the need to go shopping by foot or delivering the goods via roads, an Amazon-like initiative which has caught the attention of entrepreneurs.
The Road to Success
Betty Enyonam Kumahor, managing director of Africa for ThoughtWorks, a worldwide IT consulting firm stated that by 2030, Nigeria’s economy “will have the largest GDP on the continent,” but e-commerce can only flourish if companies grasp the country, the cost of generators and other aspects.
Countless e-commerce startups like Gloo, an online grocery business represent a statement that Africa plans to follow in Amazon’s footsteps and save the delivery from mixing addresses and getting through Lagos’ intense traffic. The business’ founder, Doctor Olumide Olusanya gave up practicing medicine and Gloo has skyrocketed ever since it was launched. Olusanya also mentioned that 65 percent of the people who use the website for the first time continue using it, which means that the demand is there.
Nigeria, an Emerging Market
Africa has decided to create its own Amazon and Nigeria seems to be the pioneer of e-commerce on this continent, according to Ivan Mazour, chief executive of Ometria software company which offers such platforms to retailers. Mazour strongly believes that Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey represent the future of e-commerce and “Nigeria is the most interesting of this new group.”
Mazour concluded that this country could boost its economy and have the 13th largest GDP in the next twenty years and companies Konga and Jumia emphasize Africa’s potential.
The Flying Donkey Challenge
The Flying Donkey Challenge is an initiative of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne along with the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics which aims at creating a worldwide version of Amazon, in which Africa plays the leading role.
Project Director Jonathan Ledgard hopes that the challenge will result in a feasible model by 2020 and envisions that drones “could become a common sight in African skies by 2025.”
The project is still in an early phase, but Ledgard believes that Red Cross should be among the supporters of the Flying Donkey Challenge, since they need to deliver medicines, vaccines and other goods to remote places. Although the first step is to empower Africans and boost their confidence with regard to such an ambitious project, Africa could create its own Amazon in the upcoming years.
By Gabriela Motroc