Uber Eats has launched a new app-based over-the-counter medicine delivery service in South Africa.

The unit of the U.S. ride-hailing service, Uber Technologies, holds a dominant share in South Africa’s $600 million food dispatching market.

However, the company believes that it can also hold a huge swathe in the lucrative medicines delivery market, currently held by pharmacy chains Clicks and Dis-Chem.

Both companies established their dominance in the medicine delivery service market long before the coronavirus pandemic spurred a shift to online shopping, and analysts believe that it will take time before Uber Eats shakes up the sector.

In a statement, Uber Eats says that it will bank on a “marketplace strategy” as it will combine ride-hailing, grocery deliveries and other services on a single mobile phone app that already has over 2 million users in South Africa.

The medicine delivery sector is in partnership with local health group Medicare, which operates more than 50 clinics and pharmacies around South Africa and will only allow its app users to purchase over-the-counter medicine.

South Africa has the most vibrant online shopping market in Africa. Most citizens prefer using smart phones to make their purchases, with the number of online shoppers increasing sharply to 37 million from around 25 million in 2019, as the country enforced one of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the world.

“The nationwide lockdown and restriction in movement created an immediate need to accelerate our business in increasing the accessibility to daily essentials,” general manager of Uber Eats South Africa Shane Austin said.

“Which is part of the reason our focus has been towards on-boarding various other merchants onto the app, aside from just restaurants.”

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