Lola Kassim

Lola Kassim

General Manager West Africa, Uber
Uche Okafor

Uche Okafor

Country Manager, Taxify
Although improving, infrastructure in Nigeria's biggest cities is notorious for its congestion, and ride-sharing companies are increasing mobility through creative products.

What have been your major achievements in Nigeria?

LOLA KASSIM In 2014, Uber was already operating in about 140 cities across 40 countries. When we launched in Lagos, it became only the fourth city in sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, growth has been phenomenal in the sub-Saharan region, including west Africa. At present, Uber is operating in over 600 cities across more than 75 countries; specifically, in sub-Saharan Africa, Uber is present in 13 cities across six countries. Later in 2016, the company added Abuja to its Nigeria operations. Uber has made an impact in two major areas: helping to transform the way people get around and creating thousands of job opportunities. Equally important, Uber has brought safe, reliable, and affordable transportation to people in Lagos and Abuja. At present, there are around 9,000 driver partners across Nigeria, with more than 50% aged between 25 and 35. We are proud of our impact, as unemployment in this region is high, especially among youth.

UCHE OKAFOR Our journey started in late 2016 and it was tough at the start because we had to bring the vision of a 19-year old Estonian and localize it to the Nigerian market. In two years, we have moved from a small brand to a USD1-billion company. What we did locally was find the balance between what passengers and drivers need. Passengers seek trips that are safe, reliable, and affordable, and drivers want to earn as much as possible. We have found one answer in our service commission. We take 15% commission off every ride, which is 10% less than what the competition takes. Another answer has been localizing our narrative and customer relations approach. We are also big on feedback. Our platform allows for a two-way feedback loop that we analyze and utilize in improving our internal process and training our driver partners. Overall, we have two priorities: fixing transportation and changing the way people move in cities where Taxify operates. Our driving force is to empower young people with jobs so they can support their families.

What are the challenges of the Nigerian market?

LK Any company operating in the transportation space will face certain challenges in Nigeria, such as traffic congestion and less than optimal infrastructure. For tech-based companies, GPS and mapping, for example, pose particular challenges; however, this is also where we have the opportunity to improve our product and services to provide a seamless experience. Uber has been in Nigeria for four years, and growth has been amazing. What we need to focus on is the opportunities. Nigeria is full of creativity and adaptability in the face of challenges.

UO The main challenge is infrastructure, as the roads are not as good as they should, which leads to congestion. In addition, mapping has been a challenge as the network infrastructure could be better. Technology relies on the app which takes GPS readings from devices, which in turn rely on the network infrastructure that unfortunately is susceptible to fluctuations. For those challenges within our control, we work every day through our driver trainings to instill good communications and customer service virtues in our driver partners and educate on best practices to deliver five-star service.

What impact can ride-sharing companies have on Lagos' infrastructure and economy?

LK Uber is a technology company that is keen to use technology to solve some of society's most urgent challenges. Lagos is a huge city and we need to seriously think about its transportation system. The beauty of our technology is in improving urban mobility to the point where people no longer feel the need to own a car. There are different ways of achieving this, such as our uberPOOL product, which means getting more people into fewer cars. This brings both fares and the number of cars on the road down. Globally we have been looking at other options such as smaller cars, motorcycles, and tricycles. We do not have these products in Nigeria, but these are the kinds of innovations we will continue to explore.

UO Lagos is a congested city as the current infrastructure is inadequate. However, based on the on-demand model, one vehicle is able to service the needs of 100 people daily. This massively reduces the pressure on Lagos' existing infrastructure. We also have a far-reaching impact on job creation. In Lagos alone, we have created more than 10,000 jobs. Because of the low barrier to entry, unemployed and underemployed youth as well as people looking to augment their incomes can take advantage of the e-hailing economy to become their own bosses and provide for their families.