South Africa uses apps for rides and food – and now medicines

South Africa uses apps for rides and food – and now medicines

The South African unit of food delivery service Uber Eats has launched an app-based over-the-counter-medicines service.

Further underlining the popularity of smartphone app-based services in the country and the growth of the already popular online shopping market since the coronavirus pandemic, the unit of US ride-hailing service Uber Technologies is clearly hoping to gain a foothold in a major market.

It won’t be alone, however. It is partnering with local health group Medicare, which operates more than 50 clinics and pharmacies around the country.

According to Reuters, Uber Eats already has the lion’s share of South Africa’s $600 million food dispatching market. Medicine delivery may be tougher, however, as a number of pharmacy chains already offer delivery services. 

Reuters suggests, however, that Uber Eats is banking on a ‘marketplace’ strategy - combining ride-hailing and grocery deliveries and other services on a single mobile phone app that, Uber Eats claims, already has over two million users in the country.

South African press commentators point out that the delivery service will be restricted to over-the-counter medicines, and that things like painkillers will require a full name, address and contact phone number – as they would at a pharmacy. And, on receiving your meds, you’ll also need to provide some ID to the Uber Eats driver.

It’s not clear how many provinces or cities will be involved in this service. Medicare operates mainly in Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape. The Uber Eats service is said to be initially rolling out in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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