Monday, 10 March 2014



Posted  Saturday, February 22   2014 at  13:31

The courier business is a predictable, routine affair at first glance — the bulk of the business is transporting letters, documents and ordinary parcels, year in, year out. But once in a while, an unusual delivery request has left courier staff baffled.
Take for example last November’s request for delivery of a 32-kilogramme consignment of Haggis from the UK for an event in Dar es Salaam hosted by the Caledonian Society of Tanganyika, a social and charity fundraising club which “promotes Scottish culture, dancing and fun.” Haggis is a Scottish delicacy made of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, spices and salt, and stuffed into a sausage casing.
Another delivery that left staff baffled was a delivery of three black rhinos from Kent Zoo in the UK to Kilimanjaro National Park in northern Tanzania, which required special chartering of Boeing 757, with special pens fit into the stripped-out interior. Moving big animals like these costs at least $50,000 per flight, including the cost of enhanced safety features, life-saving devices, temperature control and a specialist veterinarian.
One courier firm, DHL Express recently released its annual list of quirky, strange and speedy delivery requests for 2013, and according to Alan Cassels country manager of DHL Express Kenya, some of most common “unusual” deliveries in the region are biological specimens, such as human corneas, blood and urine samples, bull semen for artificial insemination, and butterfly larvae for introduction into parks and gardens.
The company moves 400,000 deliveries every year in Kenya, with Nairobi serving as the regional hub for countries in the greater East African region.
“The human corneas present a particular challenge. They have an extremely short life span and are highly perishable, so it means the recipient has to be booked in the theatre and prepped for surgery while the cornea is in transit. In such a case there is no margin for error,” said Mr Cassels.
East Africa suffers a perennial shortage of blood in its blood banks, so private deliveries of blood are becoming increasingly common. Kenya collects just over half of the 400,000 units of blood it needs every year.
Uganda, too, needs 300,000 units of safe blood annually, but Uganda blood transfusion services collects only 250,000 units.
According to the state of East Africa Report, Rwanda’s fifth biggest import was human blood and animal blood for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes, worth $34 million in 2011 — possibly driven by the One Cow per Family (Girinka) programme, which distributed dairy cows to Rwandan families starting in 2006, and raised the demand for animal blood for diagnostic purposes.

Sometimes the strange delivery requests are not driven by any health, research or scientific imperative — it’s simply about looking the part.
For example, last year DHL Express delivered 1.7 tonnes of fresh flowers from Johannesburg to Douala in Cameroon for a wedding, to a customer whose two sons were getting married on the same day.
Quirky deliveries aside, the boom in the courier business has been partly driven by the slowdown in the regional postal services which have faced assault by the rise in electronic communication.
Instant messaging and e-mails have reduced the need for letter writing, denting regional postal service revenues, and mobile money transfers means that postal money orders are relics of the past.

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