Business unusual; East African client ordered weekly deliveries of a curry from his favourite restaurant in Europe


Morris Kiruga

A Nigerian had a fresh birthday cake delivered from Juliusja to Lagos at a specific time of the day – the delivery cost three times the value of the cake

The deliveries for the coronation of the probably insane “Emperor” Jean-BedelBokassa of the Central African Republic entered the record books. (Photo/AFP).

THE holidays are over for most people, and gifts exchanged.

To people who do deliveries, the courier business can be mundane and repetitive – but not always. And to celebrate them, we look at some of their extraordinary and memorable encounters:

Some requests for deliveries have been known to offer extreme challenges in logistics and handling, stretching courier services to their limits. But the clients are willing to pay, and it is the duty of the courier to deliver. Despite their opulent quirkiness, modern clients, fade in the glare of the impunity and flimsiness with which dictators demanded for strange and expensive deliveries on their states’ tab.

Food and Flowers

For an undisclosed period in 2014, an unnamed client from a country in East Africa made weekly delivery requests for a curry from his favourite restaurant in Europe. He couldn’t get it at home so he had it delivered, week after week, across continents. In 2013, a Nigerian client also asked DHL to deliver a fresh birthday cake from Juliusja to Lagos at a specific time of the day. The delivery cost three times the value of the cake, and that’s when you don’t consider the airfare of the on-flight courier. Yes, the cake had a minder!

A client in Tanzania who requested a 32kg consignment of haggis delivered from the UK. Haggis is a Scottish delicacy made of lamb, beef, onions, oats and spices

But even that fades in comparison with a single delivery of a fully prepared five-course dinner for eight people in Zimbabwe in 2013. The client and the country from where the food was sourced and prepared were never disclosed. Other than expensive culinary tastes, the delivery was motivated by limitations in acquiring certain ingredients within Zimbabwe. Instead of getting those ingredients though, the client asked for a meal that was ready to serve.

In quantity of food delivered for an event, the winner is definitely a client in Tanzania who requested a 32kg consignment of haggis delivered from the UK. Haggis is a Scottish delicacy made of lamb, beef, onions, oats and spices.

Some people will go to incredible lengths to get their favourite curry.

That same year, a customer whose two sons were getting married on the same day decided he wanted something specific and extremely heavy. For the joint wedding, a courier company delivered 1.7 tons of fresh flowers from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Douala in Cameroon. Fresh flower exports are not uncommon but this single delivery for a single event was both as quirky and as pedantic as they come.

Blood, Eyes and Butterflies

For several years now human and animal blood have consistently been among the top 20 imported products to Rwanda. According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the country imported $37.8 million worth of blood in 2009, $15.5 million in 2010 and $34 million in 2011. In 2014, blood accounted for 2.6% of the total imports.

The animal blood imports are high because of the aggressive research programmes that support the country’s growing dairy industry.

Human blood imports on the other hand features even among Rwanda’s neighbours as the region suffers acute shortages for transfusion.

While Rwanda imports animal blood worth millions of dollars, regional brother Kenya imports live human eyes with unmatched consistency

However, one other thing that one of Rwanda’s regional brotherhood, Kenya, imports with unmatched consistency are live human eyes. Live human eyes are the sources of corneas necessary for surgery to treat many eye conditions.  “What adds to the complexity is the fact that the recipient is booked and prepped for surgery while the cornea is in transit” said SumeshRahavendra, the head of marketing for DDL Express SSA in a press statement. The eyes have to be delivered fresh, and any failure in logistics could mean the patient never gets a transplant.

If cakes could speak….(Photo/AFP).

But human eyes aren’t the only living things courier companies are asked to deliver. The DHL press statement last year also listed the delicacy of delivering butterfly larvae from an undisclosed location in Kenya.

Butterfly larvae are introduced into gardens and parks as part of conservation programs. “Any delay in the transport process,” the statement said, “Would result in the premature hatching of the butterflies, from which they would not have recovered.” An airplane full of mature butterflies would most likely not be interesting.

A memorable delivery was when a customer sent his laundry via courier from the UK to South Africa for dry cleaning

In 2013, three endangered black rhinos were delivered from UK to Gabon. The previous year, three black rhinos had been delivered from Kent Zoo in Britain to northern Tanzania. Each delivery required that a Boeing 757 be stripped of most of its interior. Special pens were then fitted within and fastened for the flight. A group of specialists, including a veterinarian and animal handlers, also joined the crew to mitigate any incidences mid-flight.

A pole and laundry

One lengthy delivery featured a six-metre long pole owned by South African pole-vaulting champion, CheyneRahme. In August 2014, just before the Africa Senior Championships in Morocco, Rahme discovered he could not travel with his favourite pole to the North African country, instead he had it sent via courier, arriving just a few hours before he was scheduled to compete. He won a gold medal.

For his coronation, the brutal “Emperor” Jean-BedelBokassa of the Central African Republic imported eight horses from Normandy to pull his carriage…tonnes of caviar, 60,000 bottles of champagne…

Another particular memorable delivery was when a customer sent his laundry via courier from the UK to South Africa for dry cleaning. He had found a dry cleaner he liked and decided to move mountains to get to him.

This customer isn’t alone. Kenya’s independence Attorney General, Charles Njonjo, was said to move to have his trademark pinstripe suits dry cleaned in London. The Miller Commissioner of Inquiry, which marked his fall from grace, dedicated an entire paragraph to his laundry, or rather his refusal to pay customs for it. In 1981, Njonjo allegedly waltzed through customs with 270kg excess luggage and later refused to pay the $363 (by today’s exchange rate) duty required.

Despots and Deliveries

The delivery however that takes the prize belongs to a former African ruler – Jean-BedelBokassa of the Central African Republic. For his coronation in 1977, he imported eight horses from Normandy to pull his carriage. Two of the exotic horses died while on the job and forced him and his empress to use a limousine instead.

Bokassa also shipped in tonnes (literally) of caviar, 60,000 bottles of champagne and burgundy, a Cardin and a Lavin wardrobe for him and the empress – not to mention a $750,000 gold crown and a two-ton gold-plated eagle-shaped throne. Most of these were delivered from Paris and other cities in France, the same place the aid he was using up had come from. The coronation itself lasted six hours and only had a quarter of the invited guests. The festivities though, lasted over the next two days.

On nursing his sweet tooth, Mobutu SeseSeko – the former military dictator and President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – routinely flew in pink champagne and fresh cakes from Paris to his home in Gbadolite. Once, it is rumoured, on arriving in Kinshasa, he forced the pilot to fly back to Paris to fetch a magazine his wife had forgotten in their chateau there. The urgency is astounding since she could have waited for the next month’s shopping trip to the European capital.

In 1981, while at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne, Australia, then Kenya’s President and then Organisation of African Unity Chair Daniel ArapMoi accidentally dropped his trademark rungu (baton). The rungu, representing traditional authority among some Kenyan communities, was made of ivory and either gold or silver-tipped. The story goes that he was so distressed about the broken rungu that his aides had to fly in a replacement, presumably from Nairobi to Melbourne, as he could not bear to go in public without one.

Gaddafi’s Tent and Camels

When he flew around the world, particularly to Western countries, Gaddafi always carried a rather heavy taste of home with him; an expansive, modified and modernised Bedouin tent, camels, and horses.

The perfumed and climate-controlled tent was so expansive and heavy it was always flown in a separate plane. Its accompanying logistics and setup crews also flew in the entourage to set it up in Paris, Rome, Moscow, New York, and other cities. Once pitched, Gaddafi always had a camel or a horse, sometimes two of each, tied to a post at the entrance to give it an even more authentic feel.

To Belgrade, Yugoslavia, he took two horses and six camels. He then donated the camels to the Belgrade Zoo.


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