Green says "Go!"

A Super App Sees Gokada Live OPay’s Dream While Facing Jumia & SafeBoda

By  |  June 1, 2021

Last October, Nikhil Goel spoke to WeeTracker in what was the first real conversation between Gokada and the media since the tragic demise of the company’s Founder, Fahim Saleh.

Goel was “taking care of the company” as Acting President at the time, and while painting a picture of a company that is recovering quite well, he alluded to the possibility of a super app in Gokada’s future.

At the time, he cited the existence of the Gokada instant pick-up and delivery platform, Gsend, and the food delivery platform, Gshop (which may be spun into an e-commerce platform), as points in the company’s favour.

Eight months have passed since then and under Goel (now CEO of the company), Gokada has now rolled out a super app that is essentially a combination of its core services in last-mile logistics/food delivery and a newer e-commerce play that will be focused on everyday supplies such as groceries and medicines.

“The e-commerce and delivery market in Nigeria is growing at an exponential rate and will be worth ~USD 20 Bn over the next few years. I experienced the same kind of growth in India when I was with Zomato. Much like in India and our counterparts in other emerging markets,” says Nikhil Goel in a release seen by WeeTracker.

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But beyond deliveries and e-commerce, Gokada also appears to be going back to its roots; roots which it had to abandon at the beginning of last year due to a government order.

When Gokada launched in Lagos in 2018, it was simply a ride-hailing company helping people get around on motorbikes, and it became quite popular in parts of the city.

But the business took a big hit in 2020 after the Lagos State Government placed a ban on the practice of transporting people on two-wheelers and three-wheelers in areas that happen to be key hubs for businesses like Gokada.

To survive that policy somersault and the economic impact of the pandemic, Gokada abandoned ride-hailing for last-mile logistics. And that seems to be paying off as the company now claims to have recorded “USD 100 Mn in annualised transaction value, having completed ~1 million food delivery and e-commerce orders on behalf of over 30,000 merchants in the last 12 months alone.”

However, as of today, the company has also revealed that it is resurrecting its ride-hailing, just not in Lagos.

The announcement of the super app did come with revelations of plans to expand to four other Nigerian cities, starting with Ibadan and Ogun. In those new locations, Gokada says its super app will enable access to ride-hailing services along with the other stuff – delivery services, e-commerce, and food. And perhaps more in the future.

If infrastructure and momentum are all there is to making a super app play come alive, Gokada seems to have that covered. But history suggests it would be no straightforward matter. The pursuit of super apps in Africa, while eventful, hasn’t produced any real winners or dominant leaders all these years.

While the ride-hailing company, Gozem, has made some strides in pushing a super app majorly in Francophone Africa, other similar efforts by MTN (Ayoba), SafeBoda (in Uganda), Jumia, and Palmpay, and most recently, Vodacom, are either still in their infancy or still highly limited and restricted.

And, of course, there’s that famous aggressive effort at popularising a do-it-all super app in Nigeria by the well-funded Chinese-backed fintech, OPay. The company had made good in-roads via a plethora of services including e-hailing, food delivery, classifieds, digital lending, fund transfers, and various bill payments incorporated into the OPay app.

“If anyone could get this super app thing done, it would be OPay,” it was thought. But that didn’t quite happen; OPay had to abandon its super app pursuits and focus on mobile money services after the super app endeavour proved unsustainable.

This epitomises how African super apps have found it hard to thrive long enough to mimic the exploits made by the likes of Gojek and Grab in similarly structured markets in parts of Asia.

That’s the jagged nature of the path that Gokada is seeking to take with its new play. But even if the company finds a way to get the machine working, they may find themselves having to fend off some serious competition.

For one, Africa’s biggest e-tailer, Jumia, is carving out a path that extends beyond its legacy e-commerce offerings and overlaps with on-demand services. In Jumia’s financial results presentation for Q1 2021, the company highlighted intensified efforts aimed at last-mile logistics, food delivery, and quick dispatch for online purchases of everyday consumer goods.

If all that sounds familiar, that’s probably because Gokada’s super app targets those same areas and the collision or convergence of interests might well lead to competition or collaboration. Apart from Jumia, there are elements of Gokada’s business that might interest other giants like Uber and Bolt.

Also, as Gokada looks to expand into other cities, an immediate entry into Ibadan (where it seeks to reintroduce rides), will place Gokada on the same turf as SafeBoda Nigeria.

Although SafeBoda runs a super app in its home country, Uganda, the Nigeria arm of the business has only offered ride-hailing services since launching in Ibadan in 2020. But it’s always been thought of as natural for SafeBoda Nigeria to eventually follow in the footsteps of its parent and introduce the other verticals characteristic of super apps.

With Gokada announcing a super app of its own and an imminent launch in Ibadan (an area that was wholly SafeBoda’s playground until now), there is the prospect of either exciting competition or a surprising collaboration.

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