As lockdown fuels food shortages, Africa goes online for groceries - Now Now Express

Jumia, which offers the largest e-commerce platform across the African continent, has reported a massive spike in grocery requirements. It has recorded a demand that is four times more in the first four months than the previous year. The sales were also recorded to be twice as much in the last month. According to their managing director in Ivory Coast, the demand has presently grown thrice as much. 

This points to the fact that the current COVID-19 scenario has made people from African countries resort to online shopping. While residents previously went to nearby markets and shops to get their essentials, they now think it is safer and more convenient to shop online. The lockdown imposed in these countries also disabled them from getting groceries and supplies from nearby vendors. As a result, online grocery shopping skyrocketed. 

One can get fresh fruits and vegetables with just a few clicks. It has made several shops go online to increase their sales and compete to deliver fresh food to residents. Fresh in a Box, the Market Garden app and Tambula are only three of the many start-ups which are loaded with orders. It is convenient and ensures that people get better quality supplies without even stepping out of the house. Some residents also claim that these groceries are three times cheaper than what they used to pay. 

Gareth Paterson, the retail lead for Nielson in South Africa, claims that online shopping will still be an ideal choice for people even after the lockdown ends. The variety of fruits and vegetables available online ensures that people get their daily dose of nutrients from fresh produce. It is also a great way to curb the spread of the virus by making people stay at home. Since the lockdown has made it difficult for people to have access to healthful and wholesome supplies, several organizations say that malnutrition rates will rise higher. 

In South African countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia, measures that are put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus have made it harder for people to access reasonably-priced, healthy foods, sparking warnings from health organizations that the pandemic will worsen malnutrition rates. Authorities in the World Health Organization also estimate that about 73 million people in the country lack access to nutritional supplies. The pandemic is worsening the condition of the people who already had little to no access to food. The lack of movement allowed during the lockdown and other measures that have been put have risen the level of food shortages. 

The coronavirus outbreak has threatened people across the people who fear that they might die of hunger. Nationwide lockdowns worldwide and physical distancing have already made people lose their jobs and struggle to buy necessary supplies. The disruption in attaining produce and supplying it to different parts of the city is a task in itself. Millions of people are left to wonder how they’ll find nutritious food to keep them alive. 

To say that the pandemic is affecting the middle class and the working class the most would be an understatement. People belonging to these classes struggle to have access to food and are fearing starvation. There have been hunger crises before, but nothing like this that has left the entire world shook to the core. Vendors have to face several bumps, including problems in procuring seeds and fertilizer, issues during harvesting, and disruptions in transportation. The restrictions are already making people suffer who are displaced and live far away from their families. 

To ease the burden of the poor, people have already started programs to offer supplies and essentials at affordable prices. 

Researchers from the IFPRI have also stated that since the global GDP would plummet down a whopping 5 percent, making over 145 million people go into extreme poverty. This is extremely alarming, given that there are already millions of people who are facing the consequences of the lockdown. The situation is genuinely saddening, and there is a lot that is still uncertain. 

Online Grocery Shopping Websites Come To The Rescue

Several new websites are being launched amid the lockdown so that people can buy their groceries by merely clicking a few buttons on their devices. The technology is still new for people who used to buy groceries from shops and stores. It is hassle-free, and dozens of startups even ensure to offer a free delivery service. With a sudden rise in orders, some websites have started to crash while some companies are struggling to find local farmers to supply customers with fresh fruits and vegetables. It is an excellent way to act as a bridge between small-scale farmers and customers. 

Consumers still prefer not to go to stores and outlets and are opting for no-touch options. Apart from groceries, one can procure other essential supplies online as well. This massive surge in usage of online platforms has sort of sparked a battle between online platforms that compete to serve their customers and offer the lowest price possible. 

While online shopping of clothes, footwear, gadgets, and other items was quite common, customers have started to enter the realm of online grocery shopping. Consumers were quite hesitant when it came to buying essentials online, and this category was one that gained popularity the slowest. But the current coronavirus scenario, coupled with the lack of allowance of the movement, has made people resort to online shopping as the last option. 

It is quite surprising that while over half the population of South African countries had access to the internet, only a meager 1-2% bought their groceries online, and online, a tenth of the community purchased groceries online in the past year. This points to the fact the lockdown has resulted in behavioral changes and a change in buying patterns that are going to last even after the lockdown ends. Fuss-free services like the one-click checkout, discounts, online payment options, and much more seem quite attractive to the population. It shows that online grocery shopping has a promising future, and there are growing areas that have the potential to grow more. 

Are Start-Ups Ready To Meet The Growing Demands?

After looking at several websites crashing and startups failing to deliver because of the surplus of orders, it is still questionable whether companies would meet the expectations and fulfill the customers. Several companies are already working at their full capacity. With a plethora of restrictions, it can be challenging to deliver groceries during the time frame while ensuring optimal quality of the supplies. 

Not only companies in the African continent, but several startups around the world are facing similar challenges. Several companies are delaying deliveries because of the restriction of the movement of transport. Retailers are struggling to procure and manage a large number of supplies. The logistics category has also seen an increase in growth because of the growth in online sales. This is a clear sign that online grocery shopping is beneficial for consumers in plenty of ways. 

More Room For New Technology 

With the increase in online shopping, startups have started to develop new technologies that can help customers place orders quickly. Those who are new to online ordering can also use the ‘Call To Order’ facility. Online subscriptions and no-touch deliveries are some of the latest innovations which are adding to the ease of online ordering. Some services also allow people to pick up orders from a nearby pickup-point. Offline retailers have also shifted their business online since the platform will enable them to reach out to a broader audience while delivering fresh vegetables and fruits. Residents are pleased that their favorite stores now offer doorstep services.

The number of technological advancements that are currently underway only highlights the fact that there is a lot of room for sustainable development in terms of online shopping. This means that there will continue to be an increase in online shopping, with a large percentage of the population permanently switching to e-commerce platforms to get fresh produce. 

Even though online consumers form quite a small portion, the behaviors that have been changed during the lockdown will continue to be this way. Even after the pandemic ends, these current shopping habits will most likely be permanent. They will probably make people more open to buying items from other categories such as electronics, home appliances, etc.   

Startups also have a significant roadblock ahead of them. It is to provide offline consumers with a platform that is similar to the one that they are used to. They must provide consumers with the same optimal-quality produce that they get in the stores near them. It is a daunting task to ensure quick delivery while also offering low prices, discounts, and maintaining stock inventories. This must be done to win first-time buyers’ hearts who may be hesitant to buy their groceries online. It is also crucial for companies to shift their businesses online, in light of the current situation. 

A practical outcome of the pandemic is that people are becoming more open to using the e-commerce platform. They are also learning more about how buying their functional offline may cost them a lot more than buying them online. Buying their supplies in bulk could help them save a significant chunk of money. 

A Ray Of Hope For Small-Scale Farmers and Vendors

These online platforms are proving to be extremely helpful for vendors who now have a massive flow of orders from local customers. Home-based entrepreneurs are also benefiting from the new-found admiration of online shopping during the pandemic. Since the expenses are high and profits are almost null, plenty of home-based businesses and entrepreneurs have nowhere to go, except online. Local goods and traditional foods are also sold online, while the vendors take about 35% of the profit from the sales. Ingredients that are traditionally used in recipes are sold online. This enables localities to have a minimal source of income while selling their goods. While this amount may not be enough for them, it may help them get back on their feet. 

Vendors and retailers also noticed a sudden surge in online shopping as the outbreak grew worse. They realized that people wanted to get their product delivered to their doorstep while avoiding going out to the market, and e-commerce platforms were an ideal option for their needs. Customers learned that they could save up to 15 percent by shopping online, and every penny makes a big difference, especially for those on a budget. These platforms also ensure that food wastage and food hoarding are minimized to a great extent. 

These services are becoming quite ‘normal’ or residents amid the lockdown. The crashing websites are proof that consumers are more open to trying out new technology to ensure that they have a contactless transaction. Websites with hardly any traffic see an overwhelming response. So much so that they had to lay out new plans to make their website able to handle more traffic. Plenty of other sites are facing a similar situation. 

An e-commerce website that had over 300 customers before the pandemic had over a thousand new consumers afterward. Vendors are slowly recovering the loss that they had incurred in their businesses. This will help them cope up and earn a living for their families. After the lockdown, a number of startups have started coming up with their websites.

Providing Help Through Food Remittance Services

The lack of allowance of movement and the shortage of supplies has made it difficult for people abroad to get supplies. Food trade across borders has been affected to a large extent. Residents living in African countries usually pay taxi drivers to send supplies and essential items to their families living far away. 

Dozens of websites help people to order groceries for their loved ones, that can be picked up from a pick-up center near them. Through these websites, people can get groceries to their loved ones within a couple of days rather than the several weeks it took to send groceries. The future of online grocery shopping looks so promising to several startups that they’re looking forward to expanding their businesses beyond Africa. 

The lockdown may cause a lot of inconveniences, but it has allowed consumers to explore a new realm of technology while following physical distancing protocols. Online shopping is slowly becoming the ‘regular’ affair for consumers across the globe. 

It seems that the pandemic has given e-commerce platforms in Africa the push they needed. Online shopping of essentials brings relief in these stressful times by allowing people to stay at home to get their supplies. Home-based businesses and entrepreneurs are exposed to the world. They have a large platform now, not to mention a broad audience to showcase their products. 

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