Bolt (Taxify). InDriver. All these are some of the “cab-hailing services” vying
for the African market share. While the bike-hailing sector is at its best so
far and bus-hailing is still trying to find its feet, carpooling has been
almost forgotten. But with the growth of technology and the significant mobile
penetration in the country, that sector may soon spring back to life for the
better of African cities. With the already thriving e-hailing sector, many
already think they are living in the future African urbanities.
There is a bit of a difference between ride-hailing and ride-sharing. In many cases, the two are used interchangeably. Ride-hailing simply involves booking a car, bike or bus for “personal” pickup and drop-off. In this case, the driver does not take other passengers, nor does it make stops along routes.
ride-sharing, by contrast, is synonymous with carpooling. Literally, it is the
process through which a rider shares a vehicle with other riders. Being that it
is not exclusive to a single passenger, the driver can make stops to on-board
so long now, the Giant of Africa’s ride-hailing scene has been rather dramatic.
From launches to fundraising, poaching to inter-company relations, and fines to
government squabbles, concerned startups have been trying to make the most of
the continent’s largest population. In the wake of heated competition, it seems
as though foreign ride-hailing companies have the upper hand compared to
indigenous alternatives. That may be a result of perception, lack of funding,
poor service delivery, or just the very nature of the market.
for carpooling, there is a new startup in town. Soole Rides
was launched in September 2019 in what was a quiet introduction to its
ride-sharing services. In an exclusive interview with WeeTracker, the founder,
Mayowa Palmer, said the business is still in beta testing and is looking to
launch fully in the coming months. The process on the platform is simple –
allowing users to book rides with drivers going to the same city. So, if you do
not want to go through the hassle of waiting in motor parks or spending too
much booking a flight, you can look for a driver traveling your way.
test the service, Soole Rides launched its beta route from Lagos to Ibadan and
from Ibadan back to Lagos. These two bordering cities are seemingly the most
popular, habited, and developed in the western part of the country. “Since we
started, we have been getting inquiries as to where we are going next. We will
be reviewing the poll data and comments to ensure we give our customers what
they want. Soole Rides is here to serve the needs of our riders,” the company
is a massive market if you ask Shivachi Muleji, General Manager of Swvl Kenya, who also believes
that ride-hailing companies have had quite significant success in African
cities. When asked regarding the hurdles set before e-hailing in the continent,
he suggested that challenges are yet opportunities to bring about ways to make
the sector great. From ORide to GoKada and PlentyWaka to
even newly-launched Soole Rides, it is evident that betting on changing the way
Africans commute comes with a fair share of ups and downs. However, it is
nothing most of these startups are not aware of, because they prepare in cash,
in numbers, and in ideas.
you scale, you begin to worry about how to keep the quality up. It is a
challenge that has made us find some innovative solutions around building our
product in Kenya, for example. We have had to build completely innovative
quality frameworks and had to find completely out-of-the-box solutions to find
new sources of supply. Besides those two, there is, of course, the question of
legislation. How do you have conversations early on with the government, so
they understand your business? We have seen a lot of goodwill from the
government, and a strong commitment to finding solutions that work for both
players and the government and are happy about that,” Muleji told WeeTracker.
Soole Rides, launching to serve between Lagos and Ibadan is a test phase-like
decision, but it does not come without ordeal. With proper marketing and by
ensuring the ramifications of such a service are well taken care of, the
startup will not meet the same fate as its predecessors who saw a light at the
end of their respective tunnels but were not able to reach it. The legislation
problem Muleji pointed out is just the tip of the iceberg, as this is a whole
glacier of obstacle which is reportedly worse in Nigeria, despite being the
easiest place to do business – well, on paper.
the way e-hailing services can transform African cities, the first instance is
the realization on the part of governments that their policies alone will not
usher us into urban mobility. These leaders need to take cognizance of the fact
that they must be willing enough to allow for and embrace innovative solutions
in the logistics sector. In Muleiji’s opinion, the mobility platforms that we
see today actually stand a good chance at transforming the way transportation
works. Take Uber, for example. It was only until the firm launched
its boat-hailing service in Lagos to
compete with GBoat
that the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, revealed his administration’s intentions
to develop a helicopter service in Africa’s busiest metropolis.
is the obvious add on of increasing utilization for the fleet that we have now.
So that not everybody needs to have a car, and we can use existing capacity
more efficiently. And of course, this has an impact on emissions. But the more
transformative solutions, in my opinion, are bus-hailing platforms like Swvl.
These are changing the game. Suddenly you have people getting a comfortable and
convenient experience, without having to pay the USD 5 that we pay in
ride-hailing. And you are also moving huge numbers of people at once. The
extent to which you ease the pressure on existing infrastructure is quite
significant,” underlines Muleji.
by what’s said on its website and confirmation of the narrative from the firm,
Soole Rides was birthed to solve a problem encountered by one of the founders.
Mayowa Palmer narrated how he always arrived late to work in a factory. “The
interesting thing is that the factory was just 45 minutes away from where I
needed to find a vehicle. After researching the situation, we realized that
most of the vehicles at the park took a long period of time to get filled with
passengers. Yet there were many private cars with lone drivers going in the
direction he was going but would not lift passengers due to safety concerns”.
Indeed, to a considerable extent, there’s a problem with the motor park process. If a traveller does get on board the first or second bus leaving the park- usually between 5 to 7 am – there is every chance they’d spend a couple of hours waiting for the next coach to hit the road. This flaw is often as a result of the driver waiting for the vehicles to get filled or sorting tickets with Transunion workers, otherwise called Agberos. With Soole Rides, you can book a ride days before, agree on a pickup location, prepare for the journey, and meet up with the driver at a set time. Though it is not private, it is a more comfortable way to travel.
the present test route, each ride’s price is fixed and costs between NGN 2 K
and NGN 3K. It may (or may not) be pricier than what traditional models offer,
but ease, speed, and comfort are the considerations. “All users first download
the app and sign up as a rider. Then you select your route and find the
best-matched driver and time. After selecting the number of seats required, you
pay, and you get confirmation of the time and pick up point. Riders and drivers
meet at the specified time and pickup point, and you start your trip,” Palmer
Rides, for now, is a privately-funded company. In less than a month, the
startup says it is impressed with how far it has already come while declining
to reveal its user numbers. With backgrounds in engineering, hardware, and
software development, the founders are open-minded to inking partnership deals,
though it is going solo for now. “We are marketing everywhere and working to
increase the number of users aggressively,” the company revealed.
Rides is not launching into a virgin market. Prominent among other carpooling
services in Nigeria’s commercial capital is GoMyWay,
but the startup shut down operations in September 2019. Meanwhile, Jekalo –
launched in 2015 by Bolarinwa Motoni, is also an indigenous app-based service,
but the company has been somewhat missing in action. Also, it is unclear whether
these services support inter-city or inter-state travel. We contacted Uber to
ask them if passengers can travel with their service, and they said it all
depends on the agreement between the driver and the rider. But, again, the fees
would be high.
it comes to e-hailing, security is at the top of questions. “With some of the
user information that we gather at registration, we can understand most of the
riders and drivers. The drivers and their cars go through additional screening
to ensure public safety as well as security. When you ride or drive with Soole
Rides, reaching your drop off point is our top priority”.
the carpooling sector coming back to life? It seems Soole Rides will, with
time, tell the answer. GoMyWay intended to run a free service for a year or
two, after which it would grow its user base. But those dreams were buried two
years ago. The managers did mention that funding was one of the primary reasons
they decided to wind up the company. This new service might just make a
difference and join in the race to transform African cities.
seems as though carpooling also has a chance to thrive in South Africa. Last
year, Cape Town-based carpooling startup Jumpin Rides
was in the headlines raising money from local and international business
angels. The USD
137 K funding was meant to help the service
enter into new markets. Just like Soole Rides, Jumpin connects drivers with
spare seats to passengers who are headed the same way and willing to put in
something into fuel costs. The drivers on the platform go through a review
process, and passengers can connect with them to discuss the trip details.
du Paty, Romain Diaz, and Antoine Paillusseau co-founded the company with a
broader vision to help South Africans save money on medium-long distance
travel. Jumpin also has input in reducing carbon emissions by way of filling up
empty cars. The startup, as at the time of VC consideration, claimed to have
10,000 users. 25 percent of them were reportedly drivers, while passengers made
up the balancing 75 percent. The startup which started operations in 2016 is
part of the Far Ventures portfolio, a Cape Town-based studio and accelerator.
Rides’ Du Paty and her team found a gap in the South African landscape when
they noticed the rise of alternative mobility solutions globally. After
thoroughly studying the market, they realized Cape Town and Johannesburg were
among the most congested cities globally, and that the current transportation options
were lacking and expensive, hence showing the need for a peer-to-peer
ride-sharing solution. Du Paty noted that the growth of the sharing economy
alongside the urbanization of Africa brings about a necessity in peer-to-peer
ride-sharing as a relevant solution to ease traffic congestion.
On whether there is a market for carpooling in Africa, Muleji said even Africa at large stands to benefit substantially. By now, it is no longer news that the world’s population would grow to 2.2 billion by 2050, half of which Africa will account for with an additional 1.3 billion people. This makes the continent and its fastest-emerging markets a great target, even for the global players like Uber and Bolt. While many startups have launched in the sector this year alone, Swvl confirms that it sees potential in Nigeria. The bus-hailing firm’s rumoured Nigerian launch is, contrary to hyped urgency, is still in the pipeline.
are tens of cities with more than 3m population. Africa has had a nearly
explosive population growth over the last several decades. And frankly,
infrastructure has not been able to keep the same pace. So how do you still move
around several million people each day with the same capacity you have had for
10 years, for instance, and this is the question that cities have to answer. So
yes, Nigeria is just one market, but there are easily 15 other cities that
could benefit a lot from our kind of business,” Swvl’s Muleji explained.
Africa has Careem and Ousta
going toe to toe with Uber. There is also Tem Tem, an Algerian ride-hailing
service that raised
USD 4 Mn in Series A in September this year. There is
also more space for the growth of these services in places such as Sudan, where
Uber is yet to venture into. Khartoum-based Mishwar is already operating in the
country, pending when other players decide to take on its roads. West Africa is
highly concentrated with a taxi-hailing app, up to 14 of them, in fact.
Feature image courtesy: skift.com
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