As an innovation afficionado, I have always been fascinated by new business models that are transforming existing businesses in Africa. Amongst them are new businesses best described with terms such as ‘sharing economy’ or ‘crowdsourcing’.
It turns out that the sharing economy is big business – Take Uber, for example. The company offering a mobile app for private taxi drivers has become a big player on the global taxi market. Just recently, the company announced its expansion into its seventh African country, Ghana.
Whereas some exponents of the sharing economy, such as Uber, are well-known around the globe, others have just started operating. Amongst them is the Crowdsourcing-Platform Sendy that is currently offering its services in Kenya.
Sendy is a mobile app that allows crowdsourced couriers to connect with businesses and individuals who need their goods and packages delivered. According to the company’s CEO, their vision is to make package delivery as simple as sending a text message.
The application allows for customers to select their preferred courier and choose a pick up and a delivery location. While the selected driver is on the road delivering the package, he can be tracked via the mobile app, thus allowing for the customer to see the progress of their delivery. Payments are made via credit card in the mobile app. (Source: appsafrica.com)
This example shows that crowdsourcing-based services are flourishing in Africa. It goes without saying that innovative mobile-based services such as Sendy have the potential to solve logistics challenges, to provide jobs for the unemployed and to relieve traffic in big cities. This especially holds true since Sendy is not only working with car drivers, but also employs cyclists and motorbike couriers.
Nevertheless, there might also be downsides to Sendys services. Firstly, drivers are paid per completed delivery. Thus, drivers who have to wait in traffic or to get a customer for a long time, won’t get paid. It might be fair for the company to include incentives for long-distance courier services. Secondly, the drivers are working with their own cars, motorbikes or bicycles. I doubt that the company will provide any help to their drivers in case their vehicle breaks down.
The future will show whether Sendy and similar services will be successful on the long run. So far, the service has completed more than 20’000 deliveries since its launch in April 2014. According to appsafrica.com, there are currently no comparable services in many African countries. The website states that most delivery services in Africa only allow for packages to be sent at scheduled times and to be dropped off at specific locations, thus, posing problems for businesses that are for example dealing with food. Since Sendy is offering services 24/7, the app seems to be filling a gap in the market.
But what about Uber? Those of you that read my article about the notorious taxi company diversifying its business by introducing their carrier service UberEverything into the sub-saharan division. It sure will be interesting to see David facing the Goliath of crowdsourcing. I will keep you posted.
What do you think about Sendy? Will the new service create jobs for potential driver, improve businesses and fill an important gap in the market? Or will the disadvantages outweigh the advantages? Let me know what you think in the comment section or discuss with me on Twitter (@inventiveafrica)!