As urbanization becomes rapid in African countries, technology has also become one of the key players in providing solutions to long-standing problems and paving a way for new industries, jobs and a better quality of life. For a State like Lagos, population explosion means more vehicles on the road, and also, a worsened traffic situation. This edition of BrandSpark paces two tech-powered transportation companies working to alleviate the problem of traffic in Lagos.
– By Damilola Oyewusi
Transportation is arguably one of the toughest parts of living in Lagos. With almost 20 million people shuttling to work or school, the average daily commute for many is as long as three hours. From private cars to public buses and taxis, gridlocks have become a picture that quickly comes to mind at the mention of Lagos. To augment these vehicles of transportation were the motorcycles, popularly called Okada within the metropolis. By virtue of the size of the vehicle, an Okada could meander its way through gridlocks, cutting down travel time for passengers who are usually trying to beat time and escape the stress of the regular traffic jams. Unfortunately, a high record of road mishaps, including robbery and avoidable accidents led to a ban on motorcycles in major parts of the State. It did not help that many of the motorcycles were in poor conditions and the riders had little training as to proper riding and road sharing.
To solve this challenge, these tech startups have reproduced the car hire model used by Uber and are working to provide an integrated solution to the obvious and less overt problems of this mode of transportation.
MAX (Metro Africa Express) began their journey as a delivery company for e-commerce businesses and restaurants. They launched the MAX Go service in mid-2017 to transport people in a bid to alleviate transportation headaches. To bypass the challenge of the government’s ban on Motorcycles, the company only accepts the State approved models – 200cc motorcycle and provides safety gears for both the drivers and the passengers. Even more important is the screening and training availed to riders before they are accepted into the ‘Max Champions’ pool of drivers.
The company also allows motorized tricycles (kekes) on their network, providing options for those who remain wary of riding on motorcycles. To empower verified drivers who cannot afford the specified vehicles, the company works with the Lagos State Employment Trust fund (LSETF) to assist with funding.
The MAX Go website is detailed, functional and user-friendly. You can check your price estimate directly on the platform before downloading the app as a first time user.
While this service is definitely applauded and welcome, some commercial users on the app have raised issues with pricing for delivery services.
Gokada is fairly new to the market, having launched in January this year but have also begun making their mark in both Lagos mainland and Island environs. While the team still have a lot of work to do on the user-friendliness and functionality of the application itself, they seem to be focused on getting drivers out on the road.
With similar business strategies to MAX Go, the company is providing a rent-to-own plan and comprehensive training for their drivers. However, they have honed in on providing transportation services to individuals alone as against partnering with businesses for delivery services.
As any tech-based business soon realizes, the solution provided goes beyond the intrigues of building an application that works well. Trust and reliability are currencies for success in the business. Technology works best when it is matched with or enhances good service. Availability of vehicles is also an issue at the moment, but with plans like Gokada’s rent-to-own and MAX Go’s partnership with LSETF, more motorcycles on the road should ease up that challenge.
Despite the challenges of this teething-stage, MAX and Gokada seem to have started on the right foot. It will be great to see the successes they record in the coming years.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.