After several months of “would they or won’t they?”, SafeBoda is finally live in Nigeria, but a lot has changed in the scene since the bike-hailing company first teased its intention to compete in Africa’s largest market.
It was sometime in May 2019 when Ugandan bike-hailing startup, SafeBoda, first hinted at expanding into Nigeria on the back of an undisclosed Series B round co-led by Indonesian ride-hailing company, GOJEK, and Allianz X; the digital investment arm of global insurance group Allianz.
It was during this same period last year that the company — which enjoyed a mostly positive expansion into Kenya in 2018 having started out in Uganda in 2015 through the combined efforts of Ricky Rapa Thomson, Alastair Sussock and Maxime Dieudonne — snapped up former Andela Community Manager, Babajide Duroshola, as its Country Manager for Nigeria.
By all accounts, the stage seemed set for an imminent launch but it wasn’t until today, March 2 — some 9 months later — that SafeBoda finally launched in Ibadan, the southwestern city that is some 130 kilometres away from Lagos.
When SafeBoda first talked up expanding into Nigeria, it would have been almost natural for anyone to bet on Nigeria’s commercial nerve, Lagos, being its first port of call. But a Lagos launch seems to have been off the table for some time now.
In 2019, the bike-hailing wars that saw OPay’s ORide, MAX.ng, and Gokada (all well-funded companies), compete for a share of a market that has since shrunk with the infamous “Lagos Okada ban”, meant that SafeBoda had to bide its time and explore other options.
Or maybe the delay of SafeBoda’s Nigeria launch was due to a non-completion of their last Series B round, owing to a disagreement with investors on what product to go to market with, as the rumours say.
In any case, it seems launching in Ibadan was the next best option. SafeBoda is now promising an affordable, convenient, and safe transport mode for getting around in Ibadan.
A representative of SafeBoda Nigeria told WeeTracker that the company is currently operating in select areas in Ibadan, Oyo State, including Agodi, Mokola, Bashorun, and a few other places, though SafeBoda’s services will be extended to other areas soon.
The representative wouldn’t reveal the size of the company’s fleet at the moment but it was gathered that SafeBoda is currently offering only bike-hailing services, though other services will be added in the coming months.
In Kampala where SafeBoda first launched, SafeBoda’s bikes are as ubiquitous as Danfos are almost everywhere in Lagos. The app is even more popular than ever now that it has evolved into more than a mobility solution, into a fintech platform with a food delivery vertical.
It is quite likely that SafeBoda has similar plans for Nigeria but they will have to outmaneuvre the competition especially as the “Lagos Okada ban” has shifted the attention of bike-hailing startups to Ibadan where the likes of ORide and MAX.ng already have a presence and are intensifying their efforts.