Doing good with bicycle delivery of medicines

Sizwe Nzima

Sizwe Nzima

“NEITHER snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” This inscription on the New York Post Office pays homage to the American Postal Service’s enduring spirit to deliver the mail efficiently.

In many ways, it reflects the dedication and drive of the Iyeza Express couriers cycling through the streets of Harare, Khayelitsha. Every day their bicycles travel between the clinics and clients’ homes, delivering life-saving medicines to grandmothers, labourers, retirees and the like wo suffer from illnesses such as TB.

It is no secret that clinics and hospitals around South African townships are constantly feeling the brunt of being understaffed and underresourced. One clinic in Harare has more than 5 000 patients who collect their medication there. Often, this means they have to lose out on a day’s wages, or must bring along their children because there is nobody to watch them at home.

This presents a great challenge to the efficient delivery of healthcare service to the community at home, but for Sizwe Nzima this presented an amazing opportunity. His social enterprise, Iyeza Express, aims to address exactly this challenge by offering the greater Khayelitsha area with a medication delivery service straight to the client’s home.

Sizwe, alumni of the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development, believes this will change the way people receive treatment: “It’s not rocket science,” he says.“It’s the easy things that seem normal to society that bring about change.”

Based at the recently opened Hubspace Khayelitsha, Iyeza Express is more than just a pickup-and-deliver service; the smaller, unnoticed elements make this truly unique and effective. Examples include translating some English labels to isiXhosa for clients who don’t speak or read English very well, or educating clients about the frequency and quantities of medication.

Sizwe was recently included in Forbes Africa’s 30 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 for his innovative busines, placing him in the spotlight.
“It has opened doors,” he says, “but it also creates a lot of pressure. People expect you to already be a success.”

As a startup, Iyeza Express has proven a very useful and effective business model, but still faces many challenges. Financial sustainability and logistics management are primary.

Currently, Iyeza Express charges R10 per delivery, but Sizwe admits this cannot cover the operational expenses.

“That is what they are willing to pay,” but fortunately Sizwe has a vision for tackling this problem. The Department of Health already allocates a part of its budget for home deliveries through the Chronic Dispensing Unit for deliveries of chronic medication, but there are many challenges that make it a little less efficient than it should be.

Iyeza Express has a vast knowledge of the cultural and geographical landscape of the communities, and would be an optimal partner for the department. They are now talking about a pilot, but there are many things to get into place to prove that this model is scalable and even replicable.

The most pressing area to turn this pilot into a success is better management of the logistics side of the business. Tracking, organising and managing the deliveries are currently done relatively effectively for a small crew, but as the number of bicycles grow, the burden on the system grows.

“We are looking for partnerships with someone who can develop a management system for us,” says Sizwe. He admits that as much as they need to grow the number of deliveries going out each day, they need to improve the system first. The replicability of this model is also heavily reliant on the systems they use. The model is simple, but small tweaks are needed to optimise the management of each geographical area that it is replicated in.

There is a great optimism in Sizwe, though, regardless of the challenges he faces in his business. His vigour and dedication is evident, and the fire of an entrepreneur driving a great idea burns strong. If it receives the right kind of support from governmental departments and the private sector, Iyeza Express is poised to truly revolutionise the way that communities interact with healthcare.

  • You can contact Sizwe Nzima on sizwe.nzima@yahoo.com or 074 453 3633.

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  • Ellen

    Keep it up bhutiza, we are proud of you and we will support you all the way…

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