By Maimbolwa Mulikelela
THE advent of Coronavirus (COVID-19) calls for the introduction of digital platforms to enable the economy tick amid disruptions that have engulfed many economies.
With the third wave in offing, most countries have reverted to full or partial lockdowns, further slowing economic progress that countries made when the virus subsided.
The only innovative way of surviving is embracing digital technology as a platform to trade and keep economies alive.
It is encouraging to note that way back before the outbreak of COVID-19, Zambia had been committing its energies towards boosting the country’s participation in the digital economy.
The recent World Bank Group report ranked Zambia as one of the first 17 African countries to implement the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) Initiative in which the World Bank committed to investing $25 billion in Africa’s digital transformation.
The report has been developed in close collaboration with a multi-ministerial working group led by cabinet office.
It assesses Zambia’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to five pillars; digital infrastructure, digital skills, digital entrepreneurship, digital platforms and digital financial services.
World Bank Country Manager for Sahr Kpundeh says the Zambia Digital Economy Diagnostic Report comes at a point when the world has been hit with COVID-19; digital technology can be utilized to ensure contactless service delivery in the private and public sectors.
“Digitisation can contribute both to continuity of essential service delivery and to limiting disease spread. Of late, Zambia has made significant strides in digital infrastructure, digital financial services, and digital platforms. This is a good foundation the government can leverage in its recovery efforts.”
The report recommends that the government develop a digital transformation strategy that will support its goal of meeting the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) targets, and improve the country’s fiscal space.
The report further suggests that the strategy includes four strategic themes and priority digital transformation actions, and highlights a need to streamline compliance costs for connectivity providers, develop a detailed implementation road map and strengthen the institutional capacity of the government to protect consumers, data and critical digital infrastructure.
It also recommends that government transaction costs and the cost of doing business through digitally optimized systems, including development of a government-wide implementation approach to digitise major government payment flows, enabling data sharing and optimizing and scaling e-border management, e-licenses and public e-procurement systems.
There is leverage data and digital systems to improve sector-specific outcomes in secondary towns and rural areas, including identifying two or three priority sectors for transformation, derive priority challenges to address and identify innovative digital transformation solutions that work and partner with the private sector to replicate and scale them, and plan spatially using an integrated approach that takes into account the connectivity, skills and systems required.
The report shows that digital financial services in Zambia have increased significantly since 2016, laying the foundation to leverage digitized payment systems more fully across government, particularly to reach the poorest.
Report recommendations include the development of a digital transformation strategy to help the country meet its national development targets and improve the fiscal space.
On the online delivery side, over the years, Zambia has seen an emerging online delivering business or e-retail platform being developed by local entrepreneurs.
This is relatively a new phenomenon, as most online delivery platforms are now gaining necessary trust from clients and confident of expanding its reach to neighbouring countries in the region.
Thus, ordering online for daily Fast- Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) products, vegetables, cosmetics, clothing and building materials, among others, have catapulted the e-commerce market in Zambia towards rapid growth.
However, the e-grocery sector got a major boost last year, when out of necessity, a number of Zambian households which were not buying online earlier, also started to shop online for groceries.
Since last year, this has proven to be the ultimate solution for the hardships and conundrums caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These platforms have gained a lot of prominence lately and the future looks bright for them.
This is no different for entities such as AfriDelivery, Zambia’s online retail platform, which has been leading the way in the delivery of groceries, medicine, clothing, drinks, gifts, and tools and building materials, among others.
Since its inception in 2018, AfriDelivery has risen to be the leading online retail platform in Zambia, working with different retail outlets, supermarket stores, restaurants and clothing outlets.
In addition, AfriDelivery has also partnered with firms such as Lafarge, Micmar, Digiprint, Classique Cleaners, and Insurance Brokers, to mention but a few, deliver services and products to the doorstep of many Zambians.
“Customers can now access goods and services from these stores through
the AfriDelivery platform and have those items delivered to their
If you are building, need laundry services to be done, want to print out business cards or buy a few items from your favourite hardware store, AfriDelivery is your one-stop digital solution in the new normal,” AfriDelivery chief executive officer Wallace Ngige says.
It started with an initial capital injection of US$6,000 and its investment has grown to over US$100,000 to-date.
“We started our business with food delivery service and then scaled up to supermarkets, pharmacies, groceries stores, and retailers. In 2020-21, our focus has been doing more deliveries where we have manufacturers and retailers,” he says.
The biggest partnership in the manufacturing sector is Lafarge, where he says they are able to deliver cement at home for its customers.
Mr Ngige explains that utilising the AfriDelivery mobile Application (APP) to order cement and other products.
He adds that AfriDelivery has also invested a lot in the deployment of its Information Technology (IT) platform and setting up of the mobile Application (APP).
Currently, AfriDelivery has more than 100,000 users, making it the biggest e-commerce platform in the country.
Mr Ngige states that AfriDelivery is a facilitator of a product ordering platform for over 200 listed service providers in restaurants, retailers and manufacturing sectors within Lusaka.
“Furthermore, as an IT company influencing digitisation on business model innovation to improve public service delivery,” he says AfriDelivery prides itself as an e-market leader.
With its presence in Lusaka, Ndola and Kitwe, the company is able to deliver services by using motor vehicles and bikes to desired locations within the catchment areas mentioned above.
Mr Ngige explains that since the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, catalytic pressure has been on enterprises to reflect on their current business strategy and to adapt to the new times.
AfriDelivery has helped many such enterprises in their digitisation process, bringing them closer to the customer and in turn, has increased work efficiency, reduced costs, optimised supply chains,increased customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Mr Ngige notes that the world is moving to a cashless society and AfriDelivery is playing its part in making efforts to reduce cash in circulation.
AfriDelivery offers both cash and digital or cashless based payment options to users through digital payments such as internet banking, debit or credit card, mobile banking, Airtel Money, MTN and Zamtel.
Other payment platforms are Point of Sales (POS), and newly introduced SamPay. SamPay is a digital payment solution that is available online for conducting transactions such as sending payments to other users on Samafrica Online, and to receive payments, transfer money from the bank using VISA or MasterCard credit or debit cards and transferring funds to prepaid cards.
He says credit goes to the Mobile Money Networks for providing platforms through their networks which has enabled them process the payments from customers digitally.
However, Mr Ngige says when it comes to processing card payments;there is still a challenge as it is expensive.
With the introduction of the National Financial Switch by the Bank of Zambia (BoZ), he says the move has really helped with the processing of the local cards but still has a challenge with international debit or credit cards.
Currently, National Switch is processing all domestic card transactions on POS and Automated Teller Machine within Zambia with mobile switching.
With the delivery of various goods, the future for AfriDelivery is bright as it thrives to expand beyond Lusaka, Copperbelt into other parts of the country as well as the Southern African Development Community (SADC).