The e-commerce industry in South Africa has experienced a boom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Black Friday was no exception….
Like it or not, Uber’s path to world domination cannot be stopped. The San Francisco-based car ordering technology company is making its play for every market there is with hunger and urgency.
A few months ago, Uber’s International Launcher, Patrick Studener, took a trip to Nigeria to explore the possibilities for Uber there. An entry in Africa’s most populous nation would mean the company was serious about the continent it seems things have tunred exactly that way. Some weeks ago, job ads starting popping up in Lagos from, yup, Uber. That only means one thing — Uber Lagos is only few key hires away from reality.
“We are actively looking for people in Lagos so check us out! We need to keep a little suspense going so all I will say is,” says Studener.
It’s almost a year since the service hit Africa’s shores, so it makes sense to look to other countries on the continent. Lagos is not the only African city that could have black cars popping up soon either. According to Studener, the service is looking at a number of African cities.
“At any given time we look at a number of cities and we are looking to hire very talented individuals to help us implement Uber locally.”
Though Studener admits that Lagos, Accra or Nairobi could be launching anytime soon he is very cagey on the specifics of which city could come first. The buzz right now, suggests that it might be Lagos.
The Africa strategy is the global strategy
The point of the service is to deliver choice in an industry that stayed undisrupted for many years. Uber has been successful in many countries because of established systems and infrastructures that aid the service. Some parts of Africa cannot provide the same level of infrastructure that the service requires to function as we know it.
“The Africa strategy is the same as our strategy globally,” Studener says. “To deliver choice, value and flexibility by providing a safe, convenient and reliable option to get around your city.”
That’s great, but how will Uber adapt for instance to Nigeria’s hectically cash-based economy? How will it mitigate the lack of credit card use and costs due to long traffic waits?
According to Studener, each city is carefully assessed to determine what the “local needs and wants are and to deliver a product that people enjoy”.
“Uber is and always has been a cashless application and that is at the core of our values in terms of convenience and safety. What we see in many cities that traditionally have been cash-based is that Riders quickly come to appreciate the cashless convenience.”
I suppose if Uber managed to figure our India it can figure out Nigeria.
Indeed, it seems the service is not above exploring new payment methods in Africa and other parts of the world. The service added PayPal as a payment option is some regions, so Uber riders in Nairobi could see Mpesa or Nigerians could perhaps use Paga to pay for their rides.
“We are constantly exploring ways to make it more convenient for people to use Uber and this includes exploring new payment methods,” he says. “We will continue to add more options which make sense.”
Protest free Africa
There have been a number of lawsuits and protests since the service’s launch. Taxi organisations in Europe and America have been lobbying to either get the service banned or impose fines and fees on it. So far Africa seems to be Uber’s easiest entry with little to no regulation issues and backlash from the existing taxi industry.
“We are just at the beginning of our entrance into Africa so it is early days but we have seen overwhelming support,” says Studener.
According to him, user adoption in the South African cities the service has been operating in has been great, hence the excitement to expand into further cities on the continent.
Get me some homegrown Uber offerings please
Uber is famed for entertaining the masses and the one percent with some quirky offerings such as UberBoat, Uberjet and Uber Iceream.
“We love mixing it up and engaging with the community, recently we partnered up with Twitter Blanket Drive to deliver blankets to those that need them in Cape Town,” explains Studener.
During the recent South African elections, the service also did a “Rock the vote” campaign across South Africa by giving free rides to polling stations to ensure those who wanted to vote could get a lift there to do so.
“I would say it is therefore only a matter of time before there is some on-demand biltong,” says Studener, “but biltong seems very South African, what do people want in Lagos?”