African e-Hailing Companies Suspend Operations As COVID-19 Begins Rapid Spread

By  |  March 23, 2020

What times we live in!

At least two African e-hailing companies have now suspended operations over coronavirus fears. And this is understandable, especially because it is happening at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is threatening to spiral out of control in Africa.

A little over a month ago, there wasn’t even a single confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa. And even after the first case was recorded in Egypt, things seem pretty much in control for weeks.

But there’s been a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in Africa in the last two weeks, with over 1,000 infections in 40+ countries now on record and more than 20 fatalities.

In the last few days, several African governments have taken some major steps to contain the spread of the pandemic, and apparently, so too have businesses whose services face the biggest risk. And one such business is e-hailing.

Yesterday, Tunisian bike-hailing startup, InTiGo, announced that it has suspended its bike-hailing operations and pivoted to delivery due to the pandemic.

Tunisia has recorded 89 confirmed cases and 3 fatalities as of Monday, March 23, and the government has announced a lockdown that started on Sunday, March 22. It’s kind of a blow to InTiGo which raised USD 300 K in February.

However, the company said it will continue to operate its bike-hailing service between 6 pm and 12 am to support nurses and the police. Plus its delivery service is up and running.

In Nigeria where there are 36 COVID-19 cases and 1 fatality on record as at press time, Plentywaka — a Lagos-based bus-hailing-service that launched H2 2019 and claims to have already completed more than 100,000 trips — has suspended operations with effect from today, March 23.

The suspension, according to Plentywaka, is part of its efforts to protect its riders and prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

With the suspension, Plentywaka’s reported 30,000 unique registered riders will have now have to find alternative modes of transport.

Generally, it hasn’t been a great year for e-hailing startups on the African continent as they have been hit by certain harsh realities.

In Nigeria, bike-hailing startups in Lagos took a big blow earlier this year after the infamous Okada ban and cab-hailing platforms like Uber and Bolt have taken some fire too.

In Kenya, SWVL’s bus-hailing service continues to be hamstrung by the local authorities and in South Africa, Uber and Bolt aren’t having a party either.

Last week, we reported that drivers on ride-hailing companies in Kenya like Uber, Bolt, and Little, are having a very bad time as COVID-19 concerns have significantly cut passengers.

Across the world, COvID-19 has also forced e-hailing platforms to either suspend their services or significantly restrict them in various countries.

What times we live in!

Featured Image Courtesy: Nikkei Asian Review

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