Banker Yemi Adegbola used to leave his home in Lagos before 4 am each day, but would still arrive late to work because of the notorious traffic in Nigeria’s biggest city. Now he says he has “dumped his car” for one of a raft of new motorbike ride hailing apps that developers hope can speed up journeys for the roughly 20 million residents of the economic capital.
For years the jams—known locally as “go-slows”—have been a nightmare for Lagosians. Potholed roads, reckless driving and too many cars have helped turn the daily commute into an ordeal that often lasts for hours. People miss appointments and business suffers as one of Africa’s largest markets grinds to a standstill.
Sensing an opportunity, a growing number of ride hailing services have stepped into the chaos—bringing order to the “okada” motorbike taxis that have long whizzed perilously around Lagos.
First to launch was Gokada in 2018, pioneering an Uber-style system for two-wheeled transport that had already been successfully rolled out by firms elsewhere.
It has since been followed by other operators like Maxokada and ORide—and the competitors are looking to overtake each other with better technology, lower prices and more services. Before these startups, Lagosians in a hurry had to put their faith in the army of unregulated “okada” riders weaving hazardously through the traffic.
Often untrained and unfamiliar with the city, they were seen as dangerous and blamed by the police for a rise in petty crime.
The authorities clamped down and in 2012 banned the 100cc bikes from 475 roads and highways around the city.
This year some 3,000 motorcycles were impounded and destroyed for violating the restrictions, police said.
The ride hailing apps provide a striking difference.
Their drivers are decked out in bibs and helmets in company colours, carry safety kits with them and have more powerful bikes that can make longer trips.
Passengers are charged an Uber-style tariff, and no longer have to resort to haggling each time they hail a ride.
A traditional “okada” ride can cost between 50 naira (14 US cents, 12 euro centimes) and several hundred naira—depending on the distance, area and the mood of the driver.
New entrant ORide kick-started its services in May and is looking to tap into the abundant opportunities with 3,000 trained drivers.
The firm—part of the OPay online payment service—is looking to expand operations as part of a $50 million push and already works in six other cities in Nigeria.
“It’s an open market in which everybody has something to offer. There’s so much to cover in Nigeria,” Iniabasi Akpan, OPay country manager, told media.