In the past few weeks, Uber has launched two major services in Kenya, looking to fulfill its plans of leading the ride-hailing industry on the continent.
In August of this year, Uber general manager for East Africa, Mr. Loic Amado revealed that the company was reworking its investment plans in Africa after observing the market trends in its five years of existence on the continent.
According to Amado, Uber would be focusing on rolling out more affordable and flexible products that would fit into the needs of the African consumers.
Some of the notable services Uber has launched, focusing on the needs of an African include the Chap Chap service, a fleet of vehicles that are fuel efficient compared to regular vehicles
To make Uber Chap Chap possible, Uber closed a deal with CMC Motors, a car importer based in Nairobi, to import 300 Suzuki Altos.
Uber has partnered with banks so that drivers can acquire the cars on credit.
Uber Chap Chap was first rolled out Kenya, with the company having a plan of expanding the service to other African countries.
Uber has also been aggressive in the motorcycle industry, with Uber Poa (rickshaws) in Tanzania and Boda Boda in Uganda.
Mr. Amado has said that the introduction of the Boda Boda service in Uganda and rickshaws in Tanzania have already paid off and that they hope to extend such services to Rwanda and Burundi.
“You are able to get a much bigger piece of the population in touch with your technology and then it’s easy to afterward add the additional products like uberX or more premium (products),” Amado said.
Now, Uber, at the end of November. launched UberBoda in Kenya to compete with already existing players in the market, including the Ugandan-grown app, SafeBoda, Taxify, BusyBoda, and MondoRide.
In an earlier interview with Quartz Africa, Mr. Alon Lits, Uber’s general manager for sub-Saharan Africa said that the challenges met by the ride-hailing service such as price wars and regulatory challenges have helped it adjust its operations.
He said, for example, that they initially did not use cash as a payment method until they entered the African market.
“Nairobi was the second city for Uber globally to test cash as a payment method. We got consistent feedback from both riders and drivers that we needed to launch a cash option. So, we launched a pilot in Nairobi where we tested cash as an option over a two-month period, and it was incredibly successful,” he said.
“Over that two-month period, the business grew over three times. Cash is now available in cities around the world and I think that was the most pivotal or the most impactful innovation.”
He also revealed that the African market’s uniqueness is reflected in the different means of transport such as the use of motorbikes and low-cost taxis, which forced Uber to adjust.
Uber and Jumo
Another product Uber is testing as it looks to spread it across the continent in 2019, is the new partnership with JUMO, a financial technology company, to help Uber driver-partners acquire cars.
The JUMO Drive and Uber app work together to generate and facilitate the credit scoring and application process for driver-partners. To ensure that driver-partners have a seamless and automated experience, all applications are transparent and require no upfront costs, no sign-up fees, no deposits.
In addition to the easy application process and flexible repayment structure, further benefits include a tracking device and a service and maintenance plan to ensure driver-partners are able to keep their vehicle up and running in good working order.
(Watch video to see how the system works)
The credit risk score of the driver-partners is determined by the driver’s earnings, trips and behaviour patterns ensuring that each driver receives offers that are individually designed. Finance for the vehicles is provided by bank partners on the JUMO platform.
“The introduction of JUMO Drive builds on our philosophy of creating economic empowerment for Uber driver-partners. We are constantly seeking opportunities that will allow drivers to start their own business full time while improving their lives – we believe this partnership with JUMO will play a significant role in doing just that,” Justin Spratt, Head of Business, for Uber Middle East and Africa, explains.
“We are really excited to grow our partnership with Uber,” says JUMO Founder and CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball.
“JUMO Drive is another way that we are making it easy for small businesses to access great choices: in this case getting a real-time solution to owning your own vehicle financed by a leading bank. The vast majority of ride-sharing drivers globally don’t own their own vehicles. We are looking forward to rolling this out to many more markets.”
Other Uber services in Africa
Uber, which earlier this year, claimed around 1.3 million riders in sub-Saharan Africa alone, has also ventured into on-demand services with UberEats in Kenya.
Recently, the company rolled out a bus service in Egypt, aiming at staving off competition from Careem, which has also launched the same product in the country.
The company’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi has said Uber will invest in a $100 million Egyptian customer support center. The ride-hailing service has also launched a simpler version of the app known as Uber Lite that works on Android phones and with low bandwidth.
Today, in South Africa, the company launched a 24/7 phone support for users across the continent’s second largest economy. Passengers and drivers will have a dedicated phone support line, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The new 24/7 phone line for riders and drivers follows a number of significant changes that Uber has announced to better support users of the app including:
Partner Injury Protection – In the unfortunate event of an accident On-Trip, drivers and delivery-partners will be covered on the road.
Rider Injury Protection – Riders are covered in the unfortunate event of death or disability On-Trip. We extended the cover to now include a contribution towards loss or damage to your personal possessions.
Driving Hour Limits – a feature to prevent drowsy driving. This feature prompts drivers to go offline for six straight hours from the app after a total of 12 hours of driving time.
New Driver App – We stripped away all the complexity to create an entirely new experience designed to support drivers on every moment of their journey in ways that meet their needs.
Safety Toolkit – New innovative features which include Trusted Contacts (riders), Speed Alerts (driver), In-App Emergency Button (riders + drivers).