Zambia: Entrepreneur identifies opportunity for online food delivery platform

An Ubuntu employee delivering fresh produce

Zambian company Ubuntu Meal Delivery Services delivers food from restaurants and fresh produce from local farmers to its clients in the Lusaka region. The business was started in 2017. Co-founder and CEO David Mbuta answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Ubuntu is an online food delivery as well as fresh produce storage and delivery service operating within a 20km radius of the Lusaka central business district.

2. How did you finance your startup?

I financed our startup through investing early in family real estate when I came back from Australia as well as from my savings from having worked in Australia. The rentals have helped me sustain the business. Seed funding from The Tony Elumelu Foundation helped us buy our first bikes and get our first staff and office.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

It would go into acquiring additional bikes with additional riders, branding of the bikes and setting up remote satellite solar-powered cold rooms. We will also invest the money in four refrigerated trucks – two for local transportation to assist farmers with logistical challenges in getting their fresh produce to the cold rooms, and the other two for cross-border transportation to assist farmers to sell their produce across the border. Furthermore, we would appoint extra staff to manage each cold room as well as additional customer service staff. Lastly, we would buy bikes for our Malawi site.

Ubuntu’s courier motorbikes

4. What risks does your business face?

The risk we face is a lack of disposable income to spend on our services. In addition, there are tight cross-border regulations. Current border controls and regulations don’t allow for the free flow of goods, with high taxes and duties on goods. The hope is that we would eventually have a free trade zone that opens up borders for easier trading. We need more open borders to allow for the international delivery of fresh produce. Currently, this is very difficult. Establishing sister companies in neighbouring countries is also affected by strict regulations in terms of licences, documents and the testing of fresh produce.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Social media and word of mouth.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Winning seed funding from The Tony Elumelu Foundation, which allowed us to buy our first bikes.

7. Identify an untapped business opportunity in Africa.

An e-commerce platform giving customers access to qualified artisans such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, builders and painters.