How Ivory Coast’s Moja Ride is bringing mobility-as-a-service to Abidjan

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Ivorian startup Moja Ride is helping Abidjan residents find, book and pay for the most affordable and efficient modes of transportation via a mobility-as-a-service solution it says is only the beginning for the company.

For now, Moja Ride is connecting informal modes of transportation in Abidjan, such as shared taxis and minibuses, with over 1,700 users and 600 drivers enrolled in the city.

It is in the process of deploying its first module, which is a mobile fare collection app that allows drivers of minibuses and shared taxis to accept electronic payment from a user’s Moja Card or any integrated mobile wallet. Yet it has plans to expand the applications of the platform further.

“In the near future, we will leverage this payment data to provide real-time data about the availability of the minibuses and shared taxis,” founder Jean Claude Gouesse told Disrupt Africa.

The startup’s story began back in November 2015, when Gouesse was the recipient of a Grand Challenges grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in order to work on a solution to facilitate the adoption of digital payments by small merchants across Africa.

“I quickly realised the need to align payments with the services that are the most used. We built a mobile point of sale (MPoS) system for restaurants and small grocery stores which we struggled to deploy due to lack of funding,” he said.

Gouesse struck out on his own and launched a business called Moja Wallet in Abidjan in 2016, which eventually became Moja Ride as it is now in February 2017.

“When we developed the PoS solution for small merchants it became clear to me that payments alone would be a difficult sell to merchants. Moreover, the user interface for the payment solution also needed to be simplified and unified,” he said. “Most of the solutions on the market are pushing multiple user experiences to merchants in a “one size fits all” approach. We realised that we needed to develop a custom application for each segment of the market and solve real problems for consumers.”

A critical problem faced by people living in most African cities is transportation, so Gouesse and his team started with that.

“If we can solve the transportation problem, then everything else will naturally follow,” he said.

The competition for Moja Ride is two-fold. On the payments side, it is facing various other mobile wallets, including those run by mobile operators such as Orange and MTN. There are also dedicated fare collection companies. Yet Gouesse believes it does a better job than the latter, and hopes to collaborate with the former.

“The truth is we never planned to become a payment service provider. We expected to build our solution on top of the existing mobile wallets, but we are yet to achieve commercial agreements that are acceptable to all parties. So, in the meantime, we run on our own mobile wallet,” he said.

Regardless of intention, uptake has been strong.

“We are very impressed by the response we have had from the drivers, the riders and taxi unions we are working with. We are still ramping up our cohort of users. Our key success today is that we are making customers happy and we are working hard to extend our footprint on our primary market,” Gouesse said.

Bootstrapped until November 2018 when it secured funding from a syndicate of investors put together by the Chicago-based Sente mobility accelerator programme, Moja Ride is currently solely focused on Abidjan.

“We have key milestones we need reach by the end of 2019 in Abidjan and other cities in Ivory Coast before expanding outside the country,” Gouesse said.

It does have wider ambitions, however.

“We are building the necessary partnerships in some key markets. Our expansion plans will include two phases. First, we will focus on the UEMOA zone and its eight countries that share the same central bank. This will limit our effort for regulatory compliance from the central bank,” said Gouesse. “In the second phase we will target selected cities in other important markets.”

He said the startup – which earns revenues both on processing payments for drivers and on commission from bookings, had seen “promising” early revenue growth but that it was still too early to consider profitability.

“Profitability is not really our short-term goal,” said Gouesse. Expansion, both of its platform and its geographic scope, is. Moja Ride is one to keep an eye on.

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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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