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Senegal online food company sees sales double due to epidemic

DAKAR (Reuters) - Since the coronavirus reached Senegal, a growing number of residents in the capital have begun ordering groceries online, a welcome boost to a fledgling delivery service in a country where produce is usually bought in shops or markets.

Workers from Club Kossam, a local online food delivery company, prepare groceries and dairy products for delivery, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Diamniadio, Senegal May 7, 2020. REUTERS/Christophe Van Der Perre

Club Kossam now delivers milk products, vegetables, fruit and meat to 1,300 households in Dakar per week with monthly sales doubling since the start of the epidemic. In contrast, the core business of its parent company La Laiterie du Berger (LDB) and local suppliers have been hit hard by the crisis.

The delivery firm sped up a planned expansion of it services in March, when normal shopping was disrupted by a dusk-to-dawn curfew, limits to public transport, and the closure of open-air markets to combat the virus.

Its decision to offer weekly deliveries of vegetables and fruit in addition to the dairy products it had sold since 2016 was a game-changer for the business, said LDB founder Bagore Bathily.

“With vegetables, it’s clear activity has exploded,” he told Reuters.

Club Kossam’s sales hit 62 million CFA francs ($103,000) in April, compared with a monthly average of 30 million before the epidemic and it has recruited 25 employees to cope with the surge in demand. In contrast, sales of LDB’s main brand Dolima fell 20% in the same period.

The business is one of 60 in Senegal’s nascent e-commerce sector, according to a U.N. trade and development report, which highlights efforts by the trade ministry to respond to the outbreak by fast-tracking e-commerce reforms.

Coronavirus lockdowns are hastening a shift towards online shopping across the continent, African e-commerce giant Jumia said this week.

Club Kossam’s Manager, Lucien Diedhiou, sees the trend lasting beyond the end of the epidemic.

“There is a new generation that is changing habits,” he said. “Both men and women work now, so I’m confident Senegalese people will remain interested in our services,”

For now, Club Kossam accounts for around 6% of LDB’s revenue, which amounted to around 5 billion CFA francs in 2018.

($1 = 603.2500 CFA francs)

Reporting by Christophe Van Der Perre; Additional reporting and writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Giles Elgood

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