Delivering the goods: the app that's beating the traffic in Lagos

Story highlights

  • A start up is changing how people get their goods
  • Drivers use an app to speed up the process
  • Some items can be delivered in 30 minutes

(CNN)On the streets of Lagos, motorcycles, cars and daredevil cyclists weave through the lanes, jostling for space to avoid getting stuck in the chaotic traffic jams.

Among them are the city's delivery people who transport food, letters and parcels through the traffic.
    If they work for start up Africa Courier Express, ACE, they may only have 30 minutes to get the job done, a challenging feat in the notorious traffic of Lagos.
    The aim is to safely connect businesses and customers by taking care of the delivery and payment.
    "There are infrastructure challenges, address challenges. It can be hard just to find the address of the customer, and you need to be able to handle cash," says co-founder Tunde Kehinde. "It's a big challenge for entrepreneurs looking to get goods to their customers [in Nigeria]."
    The company says they have found a way to get around this. Run by the people behind the Nigerian online marketplace Jumia, the company uses a digital delivery system which is tailor-made for Africa, Kehinde explains.
    Lagos is known for its notorious traffic.

    How it works

    Businesses use the ACE portal to book the delivery. Drivers are kitted with an app that helps them navigate the streets using GPS, and customers can track their parcels, Kehinde explains.
    "We use geo technology to map locations and give customers real time tracking, and we give them the convenience to pay in whatever way they want."
    Offering the possibility to pay on delivery is crucial in Nigeria, Kehinde adds. This is one of the key differences with ACE and other delivery companies.
    It's estimated there are around 200,000 active debit cards in Nigeria for a population of roughly 174 million people, "so most transactions are still done in cash."
    ACE co-founder Tunde Kehinde

    Boosting pan-African trade

    Kehinde started ACE with co-founder Ercin Eksin in 2014.
    The company grew in 2015 after securing an $850,000 investment from the African payments company Interswitch.
    It now has 120 staff delivering across the country. Around 90% of deliveries are done by motorcycle and the rest by small trucks. The bikes help the drivers squeeze between cars and trucks to get through traffic jams.
    In the two years since its launch, ACE's drivers have delivered 350,000 parcels in Nigeria and work with 1,500 businesses, including Guaranty Trust Bank, Leadway Assurance and IBM.
    Now, they are looking to expand across Africa, and hope to help boost cross-border trade.
    "We want any small business across the continent to be able to get goods from A to B, track them in real time and get paid. Our aim is to make it easier for the African community to succeed," said Kehinde.

    30-minute delivery

    Customers in Lagos and Abuja can get food and drinks delivered in as little as 30 minutes from a selection of participating restaurants.
    Other items, such as parcels, bank cards and furniture are delivered across Nigeria in two hours to two days, depending on the item and the customer's location.
    The system continuously builds up a database of addresses and customer details.
    "This is critical, because it means that the next time we come to you, we already have the location and we know exactly who you are, so the delivery can be that much faster," he adds.

    Sending vaccines

    ACE has attracted the attention of hospitals, helping connect doctors, pharmacies and patients, some of whom have signed up.
    Vaccines can be delivered within a couple of hours, according to the company.
    "We partner with healthcare pharmacies who want us to help them deliver goods to their customers and hospitals who are trying to trying to get prescriptions to people."
    ACE delivers vaccines and other healthcare products to patients.
    Bank cards are also sent through ACE, Kehinde says.
    Though delivering on time in Lagos can be tough, with the notorious unpredictability of the traffic, delays and unforeseen hindrances, Kehinde says delays have not been a big issue so far.
    Allowing merchants and customers to track the exact location of the parcel helps reassure them that all is well, Kehinde says.
    "ACE really opens up opportunities for small businesses."