legal sanctions

Morocco: Why startup Yango has been forced to pack its bags

By Maher Hajbi

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Posted on July 17, 2023 08:13

jad20230712-eco-maroc-vtc-yango-1256×628-1689166507 Yango launched in Morocco at the beginning of April. © Yango.
Yango launched in Morocco at the beginning of April. © Yango.

Russian ridesharing startup Yango has been banned in Casablanca just 3 months after launching. Authorities say it lacks permission and uses “unprofessional drivers.”

“We’re going to shake up the Moroccan landscape by offering exceptional standards of comfort, safety and affordability to meet local demand,” stated Adeniyi Adebayo, director of Yango Africa, when the service was launched in the kingdom in April. However, the test phase, which began in Casablanca, is encountering reluctance from the local authorities.

According to the Casablanca-Settat region’s Wilaya (an administrative division), the ‘Russian version of Uber‘ called Yango, whose mission is to connect drivers with passengers via its application, is operating “without prior authorisation”.

“Given the nature of its activities, which constitute a violation of road transport regulations, and given the dangers of clandestine transport, the Wilaya wishes to inform all citizens that this company is engaging in illegal activity,” stated a communication from the local authorities dated 11 July.

‘Unprofessional drivers’

Yango’s urban mobility service – available in 17 countries around the world – is already present in Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and DRC, as well as Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana. However, its continental expansion is being curbed in Morocco, as the authorities in Casablanca are complaining about “unauthorised cars” and “unprofessional drivers”.

The local authority is also warning users against using unauthorised companies. Similarly, VTC drivers risk “administrative and legal sanctions as part of the regulation and supervision of the conditions under which public passenger transport services are provided”, says the local authority.

Reaching agreement

While the Wilaya of Casablanca’s decision concerns all unauthorised VTC applications, it targets Yango in particular. A subsidiary of the Russian technology giant Yandex, the platform launched its activities last April in Morocco, with a trial phase in Casablanca. However, reaching an agreement with the authorities is likely to take some time, as its competitor Heetch only managed to obtain authorisation from the Wilaya of Casablanca almost nine months after it was launched in 2018.

While Yango does not wish to comment on this decision at present, it still plans to establish itself in other Moroccan cities over the long term. Present in Africa since 2018, this is not the Russian VTC’s first dispute with local authorities. Last February, Cameroon announced the suspension of the app, two years after it went live, for “non-compliance with regulations”. Despite the ministerial decision, Yango has nevertheless continued to operate in Cameroon.

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