Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Branching out

HARARE (AFP) – Zimbabwean Clever Murape has his groceries delivered, like people around the world – only his don’t come from a local shop.

His rice, oil and washing powder make a 600-kilometre trip from neighbouring South Africa to his small brick home in a dusty township of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

The groceries are brought by runners known as malayitsha – literally “people who carry things” – and they’re just one sign of how much of Zimbabwe’s economy now takes place beyond its borders.

“My older sister sends groceries through malayitsha every month which is enough for the family,” Murape, 35, told AFP.

His sister lives in South Africa and has used online deliveries to help out since Murape lost his job as a scrap metal dealer during the pandemic.

“It has really helped me. There are 10 of us here, including some of her children and our sick mother. We just must ration this food so that we don’t go hungry.”

A man waits in line outside one of many Mukuru shops in Harare; and a woman stands with her packages received from South Africa at a bus rank in Harare. PHOTOS: AFP

In Zimbabwe’s turbulent economy, two litres of cooking oil costs USD4.50 if he buys it locally.

But if he buys it from across the border in South Africa, it’s USD3.50 – including delivery.

Once synonymous with hyperinflation, Zimbabwe is seeing prices soar once again.

Inflation ran at 66 per cent in February.

Early this month, the government raised fuel prices twice within a week, driven mainly by the Ukraine war which has hit oil supplies.

Unlike during earlier bouts of inflation, now an entire genre of mobile apps and websites has emerged to help Zimbabweans survive.

“Clients get in touch via WhatsApp, select the groceries they want, pay into a South African account and then I deliver,” said Mason Mapuranga, a 44-year-old runner.

He crosses the border up to three times a month, travelling along poorly maintained two-lane roads.

Sometimes he’s held up for days by delays at the border post.

But he said it’s worth the work. Mapuranga and his staff get paid in South Africa, sparing them the uncertainties of Zimbabwe’s dollar.All they do in Zimbabwe is deliver.

The demand has handed opportunities to companies such as Mukuru, a fintech firm that started over a decade ago operating largely as a money transfer business mainly for Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa.

Now it works in 21 countries across Africa and Asia, and delivers groceries and school supplies in Zimbabwe and Malawi.

It offers fixed baskets with basic groceries, but newer players like Ahoyi Africa and allow people to choose what they want to buy.

Some companies have branched into other financial services like insurance, and even repatriation of remains.

Zimbabwe has about 15 million people but another three million are believed to have migrated to other countries, mainly South Africa, but also across the world.