Last mile delivery

With the continued development of the Standard Gauge Railway, East Africa can look forward to big changes in the way goods are imported and exported, and indeed delivered to customers.Developing_Delivery_Drones_hero

My understanding is that two container trains per day will be able to carry 90% of what is currently transported by road. From Mombasa to Nairobi; and in due course on to Naivasha, Kisumu and over the border into Uganda.

The first implication of this change will be that Nairobi will become a port. The second is that logistics companies and transporters will need to find a new use for their trucks. This is already beginning; with far-sighted plans for modern distribution centres being brought to fruition around Greater Nairobi. A model that towns and cities further North and West should also be contemplating.

All kinds of businesses are considering new options for what is known as last mile delivery – the final steps to putting a product onto a retail shelf or into the consumer’s hand.

Irish investor Ion Equity has already launched an ambitious end-to-end solution to securely supplies genuine pharmaceuticals to patients. The NGO community estimates that currently the percentage of counterfeit medicine in East Africa is over 50%. These counterfeits are not generics, but fakes. Drugs with expensive active ingredients removed and some of the savings put back into making the packaging look world class. How dangerous is that?Ion’s brand My Dawa is app-based, and enables patients to order pharmaceuticals that are delivered to an approved pharmacist near you for validation against prescription. Behind this last mile delivery lies a procurement, warehousing and distribution operation connected to manufacturers of genuine pharmaceuticals worldwide.

Further afield (which means it will be here sooner than you think) a supermarket business in Shanghai is beta testing an unmanned mobile store. Called the Moby, this vehicle is a mini supermarket that moves around neighbourhoods. Customers – who have an app based account – simply walk into the vehicle, select their goods and leave. Purchases are automatically tallied and billed to their account. The Moby also has four drone pads on the roof, so in theory your shopping can be flown home.

Domino’s Pizza has just made its first drone-to-home delivery (in New Zealand where I guess there are fewer homes to confuse matters). They’ve obviously learned something about wind chill because their very next project is a robotic vehicle that cooks your pizzas en route to your house, so that they arrive piping hot.

And in India, retail pioneers are overcoming the problems of physical or postal address delivery by delivering goods to the geo-tag delivered by the customer’s smart phone.

Dion Chang, Funder of Flux Trends, suggests that technological innovation is now turning the race for the last mile into all all-out sprint.

Me? I’m just hoping for fewer trucks on our roads.


Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside

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