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In Lagos, they beat the traffic on two wheels

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Saturday, 25 May 2019 16:49

People ride on a motorcycle taxi, known locally as "Okadas," in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Nigerian ride-hailing startup Gokada has raised a $5.3 million Series A round to grow its two-wheel transit business, just fourteen months after its launch.

Traffic in the megacity of Lagos is notoriously bad

  • The lack of a proper mass transit system has hobbled the commute of the estimated 20 million people who live in the city.
  • For years, residents have hopped on commercial motorcycles to beat the ‘go-slows’.

Gokada, named after okada, the Nigerian word for these motorcycle taxis, is trying to formalise ride-hailing in Africa’s largest economy over the last decade.

  • The major players in the ride-hailing sub sector include Uber and Taxify which continue to be cheaper than regular taxis in Nigeria’s commercial capital, its administrative capital Abuja and a string of other regional cities.

Gokada focuses primarily on Lagos though, where its reported 1,000 motorcycle riders – or pilots as it calls them – weave through the nightmarish jams that drain productivity.

These pilots are charged a flat fee of N300 (less than $10), an alternative from the archetypal revenue-sharing formula that its competitors use.

It is still early days but the app appears to have caught on with an increasing number of Lagosians.

And the company’s bet has attracted $5.3m from a mix of foreign and local investment firms.

  • In a statement released this week, Gokada says the funding will come in handy as it goes on a drive to “expand its driver fleet, increase daily rides by 10 fold  and acquire local tech talent.”
  • It claims the motorcycles are manned by trained, insured and verified drivers who go on their daily routes equipped with US Department of Transportation approved and certified helmets.

“Our green Gokada motorcycles have become a regular feature of Lagos’ roads in the 14 months since our official launch”, Fahim Saleh, its co-founder and co-CEO says. Saleh has already launched a similar service in Bangladesh.

They are bringing on board local talent, too.

Respected local tech heavyweight Ayodeji Adewunmi who cofounded West Africa’s most popular job search engine and aggregator back in 2009 with a number of university schoolmates, has joined the company’s management as a co-CEO.

  • Now a director at San-Francisco-based Rise Capital which is one of the leading firms for this round of financing, the entrepreneur will be teaming up with Saleh to pivot the young company’s affairs effective immediately, drawing from his wealth of experience – and well of optimism.
  • “There is no doubt in my mind that this will become one of the most important companies in Africa”, says Adewunmi who replaces Deji Oduntan, Saleh’s founding partner.
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