COVID-19 pandemic: Increase in on-demand delivery services in Nairobi
Glovo is among the on-demand courier services in Kenya's capital Nairobi. /GLOVO.

Glovo is among the on-demand courier services in Kenya's capital Nairobi. /GLOVO.

There has been an increase in on-demand courier services in Kenya's capital Nairobi, since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

Operated by tech start-ups, the businesses are classified as essential services delivering everything from food to medicine. CGTN's Robert Nagila went round the city and discovered that, one tech firm in particular, Glovo, is shaking up the market.

They are the unsung heroes of the coronavirus pandemic crisis. They ensure the city never goes without supplies.

Justine Paul is one of seven hundred independent couriers, partnering with on-demand courier service, Glovo that buys, picks up, and delivers products, ordered through their mobile app.

"We try as much as we can to provide a service while protecting ourselves and the customers we are delivering to," Justine Paul, Independent Courier, Glovo.

Movement and physical distancing restrictions imposed by the government, to control the spread of COVID-19 has seen a surge in demand for on demand courier services. As many Kenyan's heed the government's call to stay at home.

William Benthall is the Chief Executive Officer at Glovo Kenya. He submits that:"We are able to deliver during curfew, but many restaurants are shut which of course means there is a reduction in demand, this is counterbalanced by an increase in demand for groceries, we have seen a 3 times increase in orders for groceries."

Glovo a Spanish start-up, founded in Barcelona with presence in Italy, has been in Kenya for just over a year. Experience of the pandemic in both European countries, helped them get an early sense of the impact on their business, quicker than rivals.

"There have been a number of changes we have implement to make sure people are kept safe. This ranges from contact less deliveries. Products are picked up from the stores, without human interaction with store keepers or restaurants, delivered by riders who have safety kits and dropped off at a consumers door without consumers having to open the door and without any cash having to be exchanged."

Nagila says that, the mode of payment is also something to write home about.Mobile money payment apps, this is essentially to avoid the risk of spreading the virus through the use of liquid cash.

Despite Glovo's success, they are not immune to the disruption in the financial markets caused by the pandemic. Increasing costs implies, they have yet to make profit.

"The financial markets are looking very uncertain and we are now having to be really careful and conserve our cash positions to make sure that continue operating and turn a profit and if necessary not raise another round of funding," Benthall says.

In the meantime, the company says, they will continue to deliver on what they do based on demand courier services.

Other tech start-ups providing on demand delivery services include Jumia And Sendy.

According to the Communication Authority of Kenya, in 2019 the number of private courier firms in Kenya grew to 1,027 from 997 in the past year with sector deliveries up 22.2 % in the same period.