The Internet revolution in Africa has prompted the emergence of new start-ups that enable consumers to skip restaurant queues and order meals online.
24-year-old Blessing Meyiwa parks his bike after delivering a meal to a customer in the upscale suburb of Sandton in Johannesburg, South Africa. As he takes off his helmet, his phone beeps, notifying him of a new online order. He notes, “It’s always this busy, orders come in all the time.” With that, it’s safe to say the online food ordering market in Africa is getting really hot and spicy.
Blessing works for a Johannesburg-based start-up called MeHungry. Established about six months ago, MeHungry is an online food ordering and delivery service that aims to streamline the process of ordering from restaurants, and become a notable player in the country’s enviably burgeoning e-commerce sector.
Founders Ricky Silberman, Dean Levin and Frederik Broholt partnered with Danish online takeaway ordering powerhouse e-takeaway. “We run on the backbone of our Danish partner e-takeaway who has been refining this online ordering process for 13 years… you can’t beat experience. We want our customers to know that MeHungry is 100% reliable. Compared to our competitors, we offer the full process from online ordering to payment and food delivery,” says Ricky.
While the online food ordering market in the continent is still in its infancy, it has struck a chord with consumers looking to make the most out of the benefits of buying meals online and they have warmed up to the concept rather quickly.
The opportunities presented by the availability of the Internet in Africa are endless, even in countries such as Zambia, Malawi and others where Internet technology is still a setback.
Startups like MeHungry use smart technologies that make their day to day operations and customer service as seamless as possible. From communicating with their drivers to payments, MeHungry does everything online. “We provide all our drivers with smartphones. We have a WhatsApp group where we share new order details. The driver simply enters the customer’s address on the Google Maps app for directions,” explains Ricky.
And as for integrating with restaurants, the company supplies them with printers connected wirelessly to MeHungry’s server. This device, which is akin to a credit card machine, alerts staff when there’s an order and prints it out.
The South African market represents a larger market of Africans who enjoy the simplicity of ordering food online. In Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, you have popular services such as Naijaeats.com and Hellofood. The former is Nigeria’s first service for ordering takeaway online, and offers consumers access to a variety of delivery restaurants and an extensive selection of local, continental, and Asian dishes.
Hellofood, on the other hand, has its finger in every slice of Africa’s thriving economies pie, operating in countries including Kenya, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Morocco, and Algeria. A glance at advertising billboards lining the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, showcasing Hellofood’s services is all it takes to realise how big a business Hellofood is compared to other start-ups that only rely on social media marketing. After all it’s owned by e-commerce giant Africa Internet Group, which boasts a portfolio of nine Internet businesses across the region such as online retailers Zando and Jumia, hotel booking site Jovago, car classified site Carmido and taxi booking platform Easy Taxi.
In Morocco, Hellofood faces tough competition from Doofry, formerly LaCartePlz, which was launched by six young Moroccan entrepreneurs in 2012. Success came early for the start-up, what with raising about US $111 000 from a Moroccan government initiative that encourages innovation, research and development. They also won the PNB-NAPEO youth entrepreneurship competition organised by the U.S. state department in partnership with the American Arab chamber of commerce and Wayne University. This secured them a four-month incubation program in Michigan, U.S.A.
The opportunities presented by the availability of the Internet in Africa are endless, even in countries such as Zambia, Malawi and others where Internet technology is still a setback. As Ricky notes, “The market is young but has lots of potential! It’s not yet as big and developed as in Europe and North America but it is definitely moving in the right direction.”
This article was written by MOZA MOYO