Uber Eats is growing its own grocery store – in its bid to become the ‘virtual Mall of Africa’

(Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

  • Uber Eats wants to do more than just service
    food deliveries and has its eye on becoming a virtual mall.
  • “To borrow the phrase of a famous mall
    in Midrand, the virtual Mall of Africa,” explained Nakampe Molewa, the
    general manager of Uber Eats in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • As part of this mission, Uber Eats is growing
    its own grocery store which was first launched in August earlier this year.
  • Uber Eats Market, which offers groceries and
    other essentials, is expected to reach 30 locations within the next six months,
    tripling its current footprint.
  • For more stories, go to

Uber Eats has its sights set on becoming the “virtual
Mall of Africa”, moving away from just food deliveries and now expanding
its own dark grocery store.

Uber Eats boomed in South Africa during the height of the
Covid-19 pandemic, with order volumes showing triple-digit growth, as users sat
at home, either restricted from going out due to lockdown or uneasy about dining
in confined restaurants.

The pandemic hurt Uber’s e-hailing service and brought its
food delivery business into the spotlight, explained Nakampe Molewa, the
general manager of Uber Eats in Sub-Saharan Africa, during a media briefing on
Wednesday. This massive growth got the company thinking about its next step to
carve out a bigger portion of the highly competitive delivery market.

“We then started to think about [whether] food is the
only thing we can do on this platform. About a year or 16 months ago, we
started to introduce a concept and a team called new verticals and really,
their job was to look outside of the food delivery service and [see] if there’s
anything else that we can do,” said Molewa.

Convenience stores, like the ones found at petrol station
forecourts, pharmacies, pet shops, clothing, and jewellery were all highlighted
during Uber Eats’ push to diversify. This vision comes at a time when retailers
are dedicating more resources to their own online shops and delivery services.
It also coincides with Pick n Pay launching grocery delivery services through Mr
D, Uber Eats’ main competitor in South Africa.

“We’re now starting to look at ourselves as a virtual
mall. To borrow the phrase of a famous mall in Midrand, the virtual Mall of Africa.
This is where we see the world evolving,” said Molewa.

Uber Eats launched its own dark grocery store in August
earlier this year. In partnership with the Smart Kitchen Co, this digital dark
store allows users to order groceries and essentials. Within a week of its
launch, the online store became the number one performing non-restaurant outlet
on the Uber Eats app.

By November, Uber Eats Market had grown to include nine
locations in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Uber Eats aims to grow the number of
locations across South Africa to 30 by April 2023.

“I think of the restaurant business as our food court
and I’m trying to grow everything else,” said Cikida Gcali-Mabusela, head
of grocery and new Verticals for Uber Eats Sub-Saharan Africa, on Wednesday.

“Looking at our virtual mall and understanding the gaps
that we need to fill, quick commerce is one of them. Quick commerce is offering
grocery and essentials delivery within 15 minutes. And why within 15 minutes?
Because we can.”

More than 60% of Uber Eats Market shoppers receive their
goods in under 15 minutes and user feedback has been extremely positive,
according to Gcali-Mabusela.

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