Uber, but not quite Uber – Meet Ethiopia’s RIDE

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It’s kind of like Uber, but it also kind of isn’t. And it’s in Ethiopia.

Launched in December 2014 as a project under Addis Ababa-based software development company Hybrid Systems, RIDE resembles Uber and African rival Easy Taxi as it uses tech to connect drivers with riders.

But there are differences. Firstly, RIDE is SMS-based. Users SMS their location to 8202, at which point the system checks whether it is correct. If it is, RIDE checks if there is a registered driver in the same location, and messages them. If they accept, they are provided with the customer’s mobile number and can call to negotiate a price.

The second major difference between RIDE and Uber is in terms of RIDE’s use of existing taxi drivers rather than private individuals. “We don’t interrupt the current system. We help the current system to have more customers,” founder Samrawit Fikru told Disrupt Africa.

Then of course there is the question of funding. Uber has a lot. RIDE raised a small amount from an angel investor last year.

But Uber or not, things appear to be going quite well. RIDE has 450 drivers, with another 2,000 drivers on a waiting list. It also has around 1,800 customers. And even if Uber comes to town, which is unlikely to happen for the foreseeable future, Fikru is confident RIDE would stand up to the challenge.

“We are not concerned if Uber or any other taxi app comes here because we are already in it. Plus it is not easy going through what we have gone through. Introducing a new technology in Ethiopia is not easy,” she said.

Fikru said at the heart of RIDE was a desire to provide taxi drivers with access to more customers.

“Small taxis have a place to stop and wait for a customer to come and talk to them, and because of this drivers are not getting enough customers,” she said.

“Our system is giving them more customers around them within a one mile radius, with a maximum of seven minutes, plus the system encourages the customer to use taxis since it is simple and convenient for them.”

Safety is assured by the fact all drivers are registered. Fikru said the startup was currently only active in Addis Ababa, where it was looking to prove the concept before moving to other markets. It earns revenue each time a customer sends an SMS.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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