(Economist) In Africa, the gig economy can benefit rich and poor alike
African cities are tasty markets for food-delivery apps. The continent has 21 of the world’s 30 fastest-growing urban areas, where an expanding middle class boasts smartphones and spare cash. These cities also have hideous traffic, so it’s a chore to drive a car to a restaurant. But delivery scooters can slalom through jams.
These were the ingredients that made possible the rise of several food-delivery startups in Africa. Jumia Food delivers meals to urban dwellers in 11 countries. In South Africa Mr D Food competes with Uber Eats, an offshoot of the American ride-hailing app. Tupuca has been bringing meals to residents of Angola’s capital, Luanda, since 2016.th restaurants. Delivering prepared food still accounts for most of its revenue. The firm’s 140 drivers make 17,000 deliveries a month for consumers who spend an average of $40 per order. Since October, however, users of the Tupuca app have begun to see other options alongside pizzas, burgers and sushi. They can buy coal, petrol, fruit and vegetables. Or they can purchase live animals, such as chickens ($7 for a big clucker, $5 for a middling one), pigs ($124 and $103) or goats ($82 and $64).
To offer these animals, Tupuca has teamed up with Roque Online, a startup named after Mercado Roque Santeiro, a huge, open-air informal market in Luanda that was closed by the nanny state in 2011. Roque Online employs an army of runners who track down the best produce. They buy the goat, say, take it to a driver and, before too long, the animal is on its way to a party (where it will be slaughtered amid great jollity).
Erickson Mvezi, Tupuca’s ceo, says the new feature is “breaking down barriers between informal and formal markets”. Luanda has a sizeable middle class, plus plenty of expats and a rich elite. But it also has millions of poor people living in slums wedged between skyscrapers. More than a third of households have at least one person living by informal vending. Through Tupuca and Roque Online they can sell to more people.
In the West many people fret that the gig economy encourages insecure work. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where the informal economy is equivalent to more than a third of gdp, about twice that in rich countries, it may do the opposite. By opening bigger markets for vendors, technology may help them grow richer, one goat at a time. No kidding.