Dressed in an orange uniform and carrying a backpack, Asnake Nigussie was rushing to pick up a parcel of food from a neighbouring restaurant that had been ordered online just a few minutes ago on a typical sunny day in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
400 young people, including Nigussie, have recently turned Addis Ababa into a horde of orange backpack bikers, revolutionising the city’s food delivery.
They are employed by beU delivery, an on-demand meal delivery service company backed by Chinese investment that has recently been providing Addis Abeba locals with their favorite foods from almost all of the city’s top eateries.
Nigussie said, “I used to ride a bicycle just for fun and I never expected I would be able to get a job with it. To be honest, I was even surprised when I first heard about food delivery job opportunities for people with good bicycle riding skills. I immediately applied and started working here.”
For around eight months, Nigussie has been working as a backpack biker.
BeU delivery, which was established in June 2021, accepts pre-orders from clients through both its primary service app and call centers.
Customers can also check on the status of their orders before one of the 400 backcountry bikers delivers them in 30 to 45 minutes on average.
It streamlines its meal delivery services by combining technology and innovative ideas.
BeU delivery founder and CEO Zheng Hao cited the high demand for a workable food delivery platform in Ethiopia and throughout the African continent as the driving force behind the creation of the company.
She claimed that beU delivery is a brand that is denoted for all people living in different economic classes.
“We did not want an exclusive market for exclusive people. So we set out to penetrate the entire market. Our delivery time would not be affected by traffic jams and our delivery fee is not affected by gas prices because we mostly use bicycles instead of motorcycles or cars,” Zheng said.
In Ethiopia, the second-most populated country in Africa, delivery services are still a relatively new business. An increasing number of recently founded companies are competing to break into this untapped market, mostly in Addis Ababa and its surroundings.
“The growth rate was quite impressive. It was obvious that beU would be a profitable and sustainable service. We want to be the customer’s first choice food delivery app. Our target is to become Africa’s number one food delivery service in two years” Zheng added.
She also emphasized that beU is striving to become a super app covering online to offline (O2O) services.
Restaurant owner Birhan Gebremedhin, who partners with beU delivery, cited the highest level of confidence, rapid delivery, and steadily expanding customer base as distinguishing features of using the delivery platform.
Gebremedhin said, “We have been working with beU for almost a year now. I am happy that, with the help of beU, I am now reaching a far greater people irrespective of the geographical limitations we had. I could say on average I receive between 100 to 150 food order calls from beU per day. I often receive positive feedback from my customers about their service as they get their preferred food wherever they are via beU.”
BeU delivery has been successful in addressing the widespread misconception that delivery services are a luxury activity reserved for the rich in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa. This notion may be related to the continent’s obvious social divide between the rich and the poor.
Another restaurant owner, Beteab Fisha, emphasised that beU’s efficient delivery service gave his establishment a significant advantage in reaching out to potential consumers.
According to Fikreab Habte, manager of the beU delivery department, as the company expands, it is also giving its employees in all departments more opportunities.
Habte said, “What makes (beU delivery) unique is that it is full of young talent. It gives freedom and a creative environment for these young people to work freely and exceed their limits. In the next five years, I would see beU to be one of the Amazon-size big companies that have dominated the whole Africa.”
Melaku Desalegn, another bicycle rider who has been working with beU for almost a year, said that this opportunity helped him to be productive and support his family financially.
He said, “I get a very good salary and I also often get bonus payments for my outstanding work. In addition to meeting my family’s financial needs, I am also saving a portion of my earnings for a better future.”
This year, beU delivery intends to increase its business in Tanzania and Uganda. It also seeks to optimize its management system and continue to enhance its current ordering and distribution system.
In comparison to the rest of the world, Africa’s food delivery industry, like the entire e-commerce sector, has not yet reached its full potential.