Afro shakes up Uber model to compete in Nigeria

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Not another taxi hailing service, you may scream. Yes, another one indeed. But Nigerian startup Afro is trying something a little different as it looks to carve out a share of the market.

Launched in October last year, Afro is much like Uber and other taxi apps in many ways. It is a mobile platform that connects passengers to drivers, with passengers able to request rides from verified drivers through their smartphones.

Yet it has its differences too, with head of business development Victor Ndukwe telling Disrupt Africa it was these differentiating factors the company was hoping would set it apart from Uber and allow it to gain market share in Nigeria.

Unlike with Uber, users of Afro know their exact fare before a trip starts, meaning they do not get charged more if there is delay caused by traffic or anything else. Moreover, users can also bid for their fare, choosing how much they want to pay for the trip, within fixed limits.

“We can definitely compete with Uber.” Ndukwe said.

“The truth is the market is quite large. in a market like this the idea isn’t necessarily to push the competition out but to carve out a section of the market, which will definitely overlap into the niche already carved out by the competition. The fact that our services differ from that of Uber makes us more of an alternative than a replacement.”

Operating solely in Lagos for now, Afro plans to expand to Port Harcourt and Abuja later this year. It currently has over 400 drivers and more than 4,000 users, and has other African cities firmly on its agenda.

“Afro is funded by investors who had a vision to build a company that would focus on providing localised technological solutions to basic challenges faced in Africa,” Ndukwe said.

“Our product is a critical part of the Afro experience. It is the connective tissue, and very tangibly shows a journey’s progress. It provides constant, updating feedback. It needs to work fast and smoothly, and it needs to look great while doing so.”

He said the aim of the product is to foster ongoing usage, engagement and referral, and do this in multiple countries. Creating an e-hailing service that is fast and reliable, allows for multiple forms of payment, and can be used in multiple languages, currencies and rates is Afro’s aim.

“This is underpinned by a fast, reliable dispatch service. It is easy, enjoyable and enticing to join, with vouchers motivating first time use and ongoing referral. It is easy for drivers to accept jobs, payment and pass on commission,” Ndukwe said.

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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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