As the Covid-19 pandemic forced the country indoors, there was one exception: the demand for e-hailing services continued to grow.

By Jake Willis, CEO and co-founder of Lulaway

Before the National Lockdown, South Africa was reluctant to adopt e-commerce. But the Lockdown forced many people to choose online shopping for the first time; with many relying on it permanently.

While the demand is growing, so are the expectations: A high-quality super-fast service is expected when it comes to groceries and takeaways, and if retailers and food businesses want to survive this new reality, they need to fulfil online orders quickly – with delivery ideally within the hour.

Most well-known e-commerce users are the likes of Checkers 60Sixty, Bottles, UberEats and Mr Delivery, which continue to experience a surge in demand for their services.

This boom in e-commerce should encourage new job creation, desperately needed in a country where over half the population are unemployed.

But, as demand grows, retailers in the market are encountering a curious phenomenon: finding licensed scooter drivers is virtually impossible.

Scooter drivers – which require only a learners’ license to legally ride for two years – are very few. With such low requirements, you would expect thousands of young people to be vying for these well-paying jobs.

Unfortunately, thousands of youth were being excluded from immediate economic opportunities. The demand has exploded, without proactive measures, there will be not enough South African scooter riders available to meet the demand of the market.

A combination of social and logistical challenges lies at the root of this phenomenon.

Firstly, many South African youths believe that scooter riding is an embarrassing mode of transport and not fit for serious people who want to make money.

Secondly, there is a whole supply chain of equipment and skills needed: including learning the theory for the license test, practical scooter practice, helmets, scooters, delivery bags, smartphones to operate the app, as well as knowledge of how to operate the given platform.

Private and public organisations can invest in programs which empower young people to earn an income in this way.

Sustainable job creation is not about giving people theoretical knowledge or certificates which look good on paper. Rather, we need to create a direct link between demand and supply of people seeking employment.

E-commerce is growing rapidly, and it is predicted that it is going to see huge expansions in the next few months.

The earning potential is way beyond other entry-level jobs, with additional perks like flexible working hours. These jobs allow drivers to pursue other opportunities (like studying, entrepreneurship) while having a steady income. Drivers are earning R6000 and above a month while working in their own time, leaving them free to plan their lives as they see fit.

As change-makers, we would like to see every scooter driver opening filled so that thousands of youth can take advantage of this opening.

It is anticipated that the industry will require 30 000 to 40 000 scooter riders on the roads in the medium term, but currently, you would struggle to find 100. Job creation is about being agile and meeting the economy where it needs skills most.