How does Lagos measure up to leading Uber cities in Africa?

Uber is an app-based transportation company where passengers book rides and prices are determined by distance (per time or kilometre). Uber, which is fast becoming a world order, to a large extent, defines the stage of globalisation the world is at. A means of transportation where almost everything is done through a mobile interface, Uber is a good example of “how tech can make life easier”.

Since its launch in the United States in 2009 by Gareth Camp and Travis Kalanick, Uber has gone on to establish its service in 66 countries and 507 cities worldwide. About four years after its launch in the United States, the tech company came into Africa in 2013 through Johannesburg in South Africa. It quickly established itself, spreading to other cities like Durban and Cape Town. Jo’burg remained Uber’s biggest city in Africa until recently when it was overtaken by the second most populous city in Africa, Cairo. Uber is currently in 15 African cities in eight countries.

Uber’s head of operations for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, while speaking with Fin24 in Johannesburg, announced that Cairo has now become Uber’s biggest city in Africa after an explosive growth since its launch in 2014. Cairo has about 30,000 Uber partners out of the estimated 60,000 in the whole of Africa. According to Gore-Coty, at least 2,000 drivers join Uber every month, and its green hub, Uber’s support centre in Cairo, is one of the most visited in the world.

Uber was launched in Lagos in 2014 around the same time it was launched in Cairo, and within its first 12 months in Lagos, Uber received massive patronage from drivers and passengers alike. In the second half of its first year, growth multiplied by ten. It just didn’t stop there, according to Uber Lagos General Manager, Ebi Atawodi, the company was on demand for personnel and gift deliveries during festive seasons. Such was the success of Uber during its first 12 months in Nigeria, and it’s been ever growing. Uber literally took Lagos by storm. Two years after it was launched in Lagos, Abuja became the 400th city Uber launched in.

However, Uber’s story in Nigeria compared to its rapid development in Johannesburg and Cairo has not been all good. Considering it was launched even before Uber Cairo was launched, and Lagos being the most populous city in Africa with over 20 million people, it is only normal for Lagos to be at the point one of Africa’s leading Uber cities but is not as complaints continue to trail its services in recent time. Apart from the fact that Lagosians appear largely comfortable with the local and more familiar transport system in Lagos, Uber drivers have complained in recent time of the unfairness of Uber charges and commission. The recent surge in fuel price and the inflation in prices of goods have also added to the plights of Uber drivers in Lagos.

Some Uber drivers have over time mentioned the cost of comprehensive insurance which stands at 100,000 naira in Nigeria, the fixed rate which gives no room for hikes in peculiar conditions, as well as the current hike in fuel and spare parts prices as factors contributing to their plights. And for none owners of the cars being used for Uber, they face even more problems as they have to pay the owner of the cars as well as Uber’s fixed commission irrespective of the number of trips made. Drivers have also complained of the 25 percent flat rate on all trips. Which means on a day where the driver only makes a trip, 25 percent of the money still gets deducted. Recently, Uber Lagos drivers in Ikoyi protested alleged fraudulent charges levied on them by the company. While some complained of Uber short changing them, so claimed Uber deducts the fee for the 50 percent promo from their fee. Uber has however come out to deny this.

These complaints have however been shown to be from none car-owner drivers and ones with the ”oldest” of Uber-approved cars as they spend money on maintenance. With a new car or one in a perfect condition, a Uber driver has more to gain. A young Uber driver, pleased with the service, said the job pays just as much as every white collar jobs. Uber has a premium for cars in which the newer car is, the better it is for the driver as he/she is bound to earn more.

Apparently, the problems Uber has faced in recent time have stalled its expected growth in Lagos being Africa’s most populous city, but if it can overcome this and address issues raised by drivers and make Uber suitable for the Nigerian situation, Lagos might be among top Uber cities in Africa very soon.

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