Zipline adds new state to growing sphere of influence in Nigeria

Yenagoa, NIGERIA – American drone logistics company Zipline is spreading its wings further into Nigeria.

After successfully launching medical drone delivery operations in Kaduna and Cross River states last year, Zipline has announced that it will be expanding into Bayelsa State, located in the Niger Delta region in the southern part of the country.

According to a joint announcement by the Government of Bayelsa State and Zipline, the partnership is aimed at leveraging Zipline’s drone technology to deliver essential medicines, blood and other medical commodities to health facilities within the state.

“By this agreement, Zipline will establish a distribution hub in Bayelsa State for the introduction, operation, and maintenance of just-in-time instant logistics solutions to ensure that essential drugs, blood and a selection of other life-saving medical supplies are available to the State health facilities in Bayelsa State,” the statement said.

“When completed, the service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, day or night, from the distribution centre which will be equipped with Zipline’s proprietary fleet of drones.”

Zipline has curved for itself a reputation in Africa as one of the flagship medical drone logistics companies in Africa, since it landed on the undulating terrain of Rwanda in 2016. Since then, the company expanded into Ghana, then into the two states in Nigeria before landing deals in the USA, which will see Zipline providing on-demand home delivery for Walmart clients and enabling leading healthcare providers to bring care into the homes of their customers.

“We remain well committed to delivering an aggressive agenda of building a dependable health delivery system in Bayelsa, part of which has given birth to this partnership,” said Douye Diri, Governor of Bayelsa State. “We envisage that this partnership will remain one of the most significant ways of removing the access barriers that mitigate easy delivery of medical commodities to our health facilities.

“Even distribution of on-demand medical commodities to remote and hard-to-reach areas do not only safe lives but also become a significant way of managing waste that happens as a result of expiry of medicines”

Zipline launched amid pomp and fanfare in Cross River State last year

The new service, which is expected to launch operations within six months from construction, is part of the Bayelsa government’s vision of deploying drone technology to establish universal access to lifesaving and critical medicines for most of its citizens over the coming years. 

The Government of Bayelsa State’s vision will see Zipline establishing one distribution centre, which is capable of covering most parts of the state and put almost all of its citizens within minutes of a essential medical delivery by drone.

“Zipline is pleased to partner with the people and Government of Bayelsa to advance instant, autonomous healthcare delivery across the state,” said Zipline CEO, Keller Rinaudo. “This partnership is an important milestone for Zipline as we scale smart, safe and just-in-time delivery technology and transform how goods move around the globe.”

The Snr. Vice President for Zipline Africa, Daniel Marfo assured that Zipline will begin the construction process immediately so as to stay within the agreed timelines. 

“We are committed to rapidly meeting our side of this agreement, part of which entails the building of a distribution hub from where we will store and deliver the medical commodities and employ hundreds of local team members from Bayelsa,” Marfo said. “Our system is well tested across Africa and the United States, and there is no doubt that it is a giant step in expanding universal healthcare access in Nigeria.”

The key supplies to be distributed – blood products, vaccines and other critical medical supplies – will traditionally be stored at the central hub Zipline will be building in collaboration with the state, to increase access, reduce medical waste, and greatly increase chances of timeous delivery.

Health workers will place orders by text message or call and promptly receive their deliveries exactly when and where they need them in 30 minutes on average.

The drones both take off from and land at Zipline’s distribution hub, requiring no additional infrastructure or manpower at the clinics they serve. The drones fly autonomously and can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometres an hour, and have a round trip range of 160 kilometres – even in high-speed winds and rain.

Deliveries are made from the sky, with the drone descending to a safe height above the ground and releasing a box of medicine by parachute to a designated spot at the health centres it serves.

To ensure sustainability and continuous availability of medical products within the value chain for distribution, the Bayelsa State Government, represented by the Ministry of Health, has separately entered an agreement with pharmaceutical products procurement platform DrugStoc; Health Spaces and Sterling Bank – to form a consortium which will ensure the availability of safe, quality and affordable drugs and medicines to all residents of the state in all its health facilities.

The consortium will be led by Zipline.

“This partnership is significant to us as it will complement our efforts in hitching up primary health care delivery services in Bayelsa,” said the State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Pabara Newton Igwele. “There is no doubt that leveraging technology for medical delivery should be a game-changer for even distribution of medical commodities.”

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