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Soaring demand for e-hailing and e-delivery services as the grip of Covid-19 on the country eases

Jake Willis is the chief executive of Lulaway, a youth development organisation. Photo: Supplied

Jake Willis is the chief executive of Lulaway, a youth development organisation. Photo: Supplied

Published Oct 27, 2021


By Jake Willis

With Covid-19 slowly easing its grip and the country starting to breathe again, the anticipated sigh of relief comes coupled with some challenges for companies to keep up with demand and opportunities for South Africans to get working.

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An important case illustrating this is the e-hailing and food delivery services such as Uber and Mr Delivery, which are now engaged in a massive recruitment and expansion drive, trying to make up for lost time and keep up with the surging demand.

Uber, Didi, Uber Eats and Mr delivery are set to grow driver counts by thousands, with drivers earning between R10 000 and R20 000 a month.

Due to the Covid-19 waves and subsequent lockdowns, e-hailing and food delivery platforms suffered severe setbacks, leading to a sharp decline in income for drivers on the platforms. As a result, drivers who relied on the business for their day-to-day survival left the platforms, searching for a more sustainable income.

This is a great opportunity for new drivers to seize the platform’s economic opportunity and build their small businesses, and regenerate the entrepreneurial market that was devastated by the pandemic.

According to Statistics South Africa, the official unemployment rate was 34.4 percent in the second quarter of 2021. While this points to a worrying increase in unemployment, the trend is likely to turn as markets recover from the pandemic and businesses that were hard hit start to rebound.

Since the launch of Uber in South Africa in 2013, the e-hailing service has been faced with taxi violence and accompanying drama. Unfortunately there is little reporting that e-hailing platforms have been significant contributors to employment in the country, with tens of thousands of drivers earning substantial incomes. This trend will continue accelerating in the new e-commerce, remote working, flexi-hour-dominated workplace with potential for over 200 000 new opportunities in the space over the next few years.

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An important point to note is that these platform operators, as they are called, need very little education -- the only requirement in most cases is a driving licence. Yet they earn substantially more than entry-level office workers, often four or five times more.

Moreover, the drivers also work according to schedule and are not subjected to bosses ordering them around, which is a significant benefit for many independent-minded millennials.

Considering the high level of unemployment among South African youth, we need to focus on promoting a digitally savvy, forward-thinking mindset, and support the unemployed in bridging the technological divide so that they can take advantage of these opportunities and contribute to driving the economy forward,.

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Jake Willis is the chief executive of Lulaway, a youth development organisation.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


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