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Health delivered by pedal power

Delivering medicines by bicycle throughout Khayelitsha township, in South Africa’s Cape Town, is the brilliantly simply idea of one young local entrepreneur. Baba Chenzira reports.

Named one of the 30 best African young entrepreneurs under 30, Sizwe Nzima runs Iyeza Express, which employs four men to criss-cross Khayelitsha township by bicycle, collecting and delivering chronic medication from public hospitals and clinics and delivering it to the patients’ homes.

This is an important service as, for so many people suffering from chronic ailments, the need to regularly take medicines is crucial. However, lengthy queues at hospitals and clinics to get their medicine is a time-consuming chore, and wearisome too for those who are not in the best of health.

It also helps those that are holding down steady jobs and cannot afford, or are unable, to take the time off work to attend to the task of collecting their prescription drugs.

Iyeza Express has been described as an “innovative enterprise”, and like many good ideas the principle is surprisingly simple. In addition, “our plan is to run Iyeza Express as a business that will benefit the community”, says Nzima. 

Nzima is a graduate of the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development. A matriculant with a diploma in paralegal studies, he refined his business plan at the Raymond Ackerman Academy after recognising his own grandparents’ difficulties in collecting their medicines.

Within six months, the company he formed in May 2012 introduced a pilot project and quickly signed up 40 regular customers. That proved to Nzima and his two founding partners, Wandisile Nqeketho and Siyabulela Daweti, that the project was viable. Iyeza Express now has over 250 customers on its database.

This simple solution to a long-standing problem not only saves time for his customers, but by charging a simple R10 ($1) fee creates income for young men who know how to best to get around the township’s maze of streets and footpaths by bicycle.

And it also serves in the front line of making sure that patients take their vital medicines daily. Many medication regimes demand that medicines are taken regularly; indeed missing just one dose can have catastrophic health consequences. Iyeza Express is currently collecting medicines for delivery from Khayelitsha’s Michael Mapongwane Hospital and the Site B District Hospital, but more outlets are being approached to expand the service. Although now only delivering within Khayelitsha using bicycles, Iyeza Express has big plans to expand and offer medicine deliveries throughout Cape Town and eventually even further afield. A national service has not been ruled out!

The Iyeza Express founders are also setting up other enterprises, such as a recycling business (Ilima Cleaning and Recycling) and the 18 Gangster Museum that aims to educate young people about the pitfalls of becoming a gang member. And much effort is going into further developing the medicine delivery business.

 “For me, this is a national problem and it needs a national solution,” Nzima states. He is confident that the younger generation has what it takes to be change-makers in South Africa and the world, by developing economically viable business solutions that can also bring about positive change in society.

“Young people should be the innovators,” Nzima says

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