M4Jam’s Tech Platform Seen As Ideal Mechanism To Aid The Solidarity Fund In Covid-19 Relief Efforts
As the impact of Covid-19 on employment and livelihoods becomes increasingly apparent, the Solidarity Fund was created as a way to bring some relief to those affected by the pandemic. The Fund has partnered with relevant organisations including gig technology company, M4Jam as a reliable way to ensure that food relief efforts reach those in a swift and efficient manner.
Independently run and governed, the Solidarity Fund administers and disburses donations and payments to contribute towards humanitarian relief efforts in the fight against Covid-19. Acknowledging that people from urban and rural communities have been affected by Covid-19, finding themselves with no money to buy basic staple foods for themselves or their families, the Fund was looking for a solution to disburse funding as quickly as possible in a highly targeted way. In recognition of its handling of a highly successful food voucher programme during the Covid-19 pandemic and the only corporate enterprise amongst NPO’s, NGO’s and ministerial departments, M4Jam was selected as a partner to identify a portion of the 135 000 beneficiaries. Once determined, M4am will then co-ordinate a programme which will issue the beneficiaries with a much-needed food voucher as per the criteria communicated by the Fund.
“The difference between our food voucher project and that of the Solidarity Fund food voucher programme, is that there are no defined hampers to be distributed – voucher recipients in this case will be given ‘flexi-vouchers’ to spend on whatever they need most. Their requirements for us are that the beneficiaries must be SA citizens, no SASSA grant, under the age of 34, and are negatively impacted by Covid-19. Working with Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, we will target 20 000 South African youths who have lost their income either temporarily or permanently,” says Georgie Midgley, M4Jam CEO.
M4Jam have already coordinated a food voucher programme across the country, where donated funds were channelled to those who signed onto the digital platform to indicate they were in need. M4Jam then located the nearest spaza shop or superette to package staple food hampers and notified recipients when they were ready for pick-up. At the spaza recipients authenticated themselves through a one-time PIN sent to their mobile device and their ID.
The programme saw almost 7000 hampers being disbursed, using M4Jam’s extensive database of spazas and superettes built up through running market research projects for corporate clients, and targeted those who were unemployed and had no income.
“As we’ve seen in nearly all aspects of life during lockdown, people have become much more adept at using technological platforms, and our experience with the previous food voucher programme was that word spread quickly across communities and we had a lot of people being onboarded to the platform. It’s a very low-cost and incredibly scalable way of targeting relief efforts and ensuring that the right people receive aid,” Midgley explains.
In most relief programmes to date, local spaza shops have been cut out of the supply chain, when they are actually in a position to broaden the distribution network significantly, given their widespread footprint. “This method of disbursing vouchers addresses both the spaza shop economy, which has been crippled by lockdown restrictions, and the necessary deployment of relief to those who are simply starving through lockdown – especially in rural areas, and without the queues seen at larger retailers,” says Midgley.
Spaza shop owners distributing vouchers to recipients will be reimbursed for stock via M4Jam e-wallets, an immediate payment system which proved highly successful in the initial food hamper programme. “We found that most recipients barely had to commute at all to receive their vouchers, and could be collected at their convenience, which saved on transport, time, costs and potentially dangerous queueing situations from a Covid-19 transmission point of view,” Midgley says.