Peer-to-peer courier service Besew has launched operations in Ethiopia, looking to disrupt the courier market through the power of the crowd.

By Tom Jackson |

Similar in concept to South Africa’s WumDrop, Besew differs in that it allows users to cut down on fees paid to carriers through its social application, which allows individuals or businesses with goods that need transporting to connect with people travelling that way anyway.

The startup is one of those pitching at today’s Seedstars World event in Addis Ababa in a bid to win a place in the final in Switzerland, and was born from founder Melaketsehaye Kebede’s experience running an advertising agency.

“It has always been a challenge serving our customers outside of the city. We had to locate truckers or long haul bus drivers to take a printed billboard or a brochure for a client. About three to four months ago I suddenly realised this is a problem shared by many after chance meetings with people from different walks of life,” Kebede said.

“There were many other people traveling to these destinations for various reasons, some work there, some are drivers, and some live there, and they all had one thing in common – the ubiquitous mobile phone. Creating a platform that would allow these people to meet felt like a no-brainer.”

Though there are a number of players in the courier space in Ethiopia, including multinationals such as DHL, many areas are still underserved and costs are high. Kebede said it was also a fact that many people still prefer to deal with people, with Besew adding the human touch.

The startup is self-funded so far but looking for investment, and will initially test the product in Ethiopia before hopefully expanding to various destinations frequented by Ethiopians, such as Dubai, the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and Germany.

Besew’s business model is subscription and commission based, though the product is now available in beta at no charge.

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