When running an e-commerce company in most parts of the world, there are certain things you can take for granted. Namely that your customers can get on the internet in order to use your service.

In Ethiopia, this isn’t always the case.

The country regularly has power outtages meaning the population are without electricity and businesses are forced to adapt.

Even when the lights are off though, people want food, and part of the reason that Deliver Addis is still in business is that they have had the creativity and tenacity to overcome such issues.

Feleg and I discuss how they created offline procedures for his online company, attracting investors in a nascent climate, and the steps they take to onboard restaurants to their platform.

It’s a great insight into business in Ethiopia, and so I hope you enjoy.


Ethiopian parents, raised in the US

After growing up in  the US I felt a need to return to Ethiopia and create opportunities for people there.

I was getting hungry…

and the fact there wasn’t a food delivery service in Ethiopia made me think why not create on

Others like me

It seems that there are others in Addis Ababa who are also “hungry and lazy”

Not many motorbikes

Unlike other African countries, Ethiopia doesn’t have the same “boda boda” culture. This makes it difficult when sourcing drivers.

Cultural things to overcome

Ethiopian culture doesn’t value urgency as much as some other cultures. This means that we have a training programme that people need to pass in order to meet the requirements.

Keep it asset-lite

Sometimes Deliver Addis will rent back a bike from the driver, if the driver owns it themselves. Deliver Addis then rents the equipment back from them.

Women are too smart to ride motorbikes here…

So all of our drivers are men. The longest serving driver has been there for 3 years.

We have a rota

To ensure that there is coverage. Drivers will self-organise this to ensure they have X drivers on call.

Restaurants are big fans of us

DA delivers a lot of volume for them, and so as long as the kitchen is open, they can make money.

There’s a lot of data

We track popular dishes as well as time spent on different parts of the flow in order to optimise the experience.

Minimise number of clicks

This is our goal in terms of placing an order. Optimising for where they spend time on the site.

Investors understand our business

We just closed our investment round from international investors who have a presence in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian investment climate isn’t mature

Especially when it comes to technology businesses. There are a number of blockers to overcome such as the internet being shut down.

How to overcome no internet?

For an ecommerce company it’s pretty critical. When it happened we overcame the situation mainly through using phones, and developing offline procedures.

We had our best month…

In the month without internet. People found our number and were able to order still.

Ties with Jumia..?

There could be some sort of partnership that exists, as they don’t operate in Ethiopia.

Deliver Addis is nuanced

There have been additional steps necessary to ensure that our business works, in Ethiopia especially.

Tenacity is key

Often Feleg will hit the road and go deliver a meal when it’s needed. The boss is in there with me.

Have a presence beyond Ethiopia

A goal is also to go to other countries. Feleg owns additional domain names, such as www.deliverafrica.com and www.deliver.africa. The latter was more expensive.

My favourite dish is vegan

It comes from a chain restaurant that has developed an awesome tofu dish.

~$3 delivery

There’s a view to start charging restaurants also in the future. But for now we just want to have a good catalogue in place

Restaurant onboarding

It takes several stages. The first is to have a “blind taste test” which involves someone from Deliver Addis coming in to have a meal. Looking at the cleanliness of the bathrooms as well is a good gauge too.

Hole in the wall

We look for the places with a great value proposition, and so aren’t too worried if it’s not a big established restaurant.

Ethiopia is worst case scenario

From a technology perspective, it’s really difficult to work. Therefore when we look at other places to go, it’s somewhat “trial by fire”, but if it works here, it’ll work everywhere.

Tech is all me

Feleg has built the tech platform himself. The servers need to be in Ethiopia as the cloud computing doesn’t really work.

Organic growth

There hasn’t been a marketing spend yet, word of mouth has got us this far.


Social Media Follows etc.