Africa’s largest e-commerce company, Jumia, launched the first commercial drone delivery service on the continent this week, offering delivery of products across Ghana.
After more than three months of testing in the town of Omenaku, Jumia and California-based instant-delivery service Zipline have started delivering products to homes.
The service is available nationwide in the West African country. Jumia says it has made 100 delivery flights so far.
“Today, we believe it’s a great enabler for service for far-flung areas in Africa, very quickly in good speed and also with a great amount of sustainability and safety,” said Apoorva Kumar, Jumia’s chief operations officer.
A March 2022 Forbes report shows that Africa lags in access to energy and road networks, but the continent has made significant strides in internet penetration, which is estimated at 70%. So digital entrepreneurs are using technology to solve problems that are typically reserved for more traditional forms of infrastructure.
However, economists such as Ken Gichinga say that poor addressing systems for homes are still a major obstacle to drone delivery.
“Droning, if it is marked well with geo-mapping, can open up the industry in terms of delivery, but for good delivery we need to have a proper addressing system,” Gichinga said. “We don’t have them like in the west, proper addressing systems.”
According to the United Nations conference on trade and development, Africa also is lagging in key aspects of e-trade because of connectivity issues, lack of payment systems, and various government policies.
Less than 40% of African countries have adopted data privacy legislation, economist Wohoro Ndohho told VOA. If consumers fear their personal information will be shared with the wrong party, he said, the drones-for-delivery business may not take off.
“Africa is ready for drones to the extent that, in one sense, it leads to the whole question of building infrastructure,” he said. “For example, what is done in Rwanda, another part of Africa where they have used drones in delivery of medicine, but there must be an underlying legal system that support taking advantage of drones.”
Jumia operates in 11 African countries, with more than 30 warehouses. The group hopes to expand drone delivery services across the continent in the future.