When Uber first hit the streets of Lagos in July 2014, it marked the beginning of a new phase in the use of technology in Nigeria’s transportation sector. Ride-hailing offered easy and classy commute through the commercial nerve-centre of Africa’s most populous country. Besides, it offers a wide range of people an avenue to earn a decent living.
About three years later, the number of vehicles on Lagos roads had spiked with, at least, 5.2 million vehicles* cramped in 3,577 square kilometres the state covers.
Transportation on Lagos roads could be nightmarish with commuters spending hours in gridlocks. For most residents, the mostly unsafe water transportation does not offer much of an alternative while train services are virtually nonexistent. Motorcycles became the go-to choice for those wanting to escape the traffic jam on Lagos roads.
Conventional motorcycles, commonly called Okada, have a history replete with fatal accidents. Many cyclists weren’t professionally trained and their recklessness knew no limits. Despite being limited to inner-city routes by a 2012 state law, many motorcyclists still found ways of plying the 520 routes they were banned from, risking the lives of the passengers.
But in 2019, the use of motorcycles on Lagos roads, where there are about 227 cars per kilometre* (11 cars per kilometre is the national average), became refined with the entrance of bike hailing companies such as Gokada, Max Okada and ORide.
While Gokada and Max are early entrants, ORide, which began its journey in that sector in Lagos in May and then in Ibadan, is arguably most visible. And it is looking to expand into cities such as Owerri and Kano soon. Its riders, dressed in neon green and black gears are quite ubiquitous in Lagos metropolis.
Backed by well-moneyed Opera Software-owned OPay, ORide thrives on technology and innovations. Its service is accessible via OPay app, a super app that encompasses a wide of range of services including food delivery, utility bills payment, cash access and digital bank.
To allow its over 600 riders ply more routes than the independent motorcyclists, ORide brought in motorbike models of 200cc engine specification. With those models, it can service long-distance trips. Lighter models of its motorcycles are reserved for shorter, innercity trips.
Safety is at the core of ORide’s service, said OPay’s country manager Iniabasi Akpan. Akpan told The Guardian that riders are well trained and have a support system that allows for the provision of better service to passengers.
For instance, all riders are insured against accidents or death. The insurance also covers passengers, Abasi said.
“From the get-go, we made provisions for insurance for all parties involved,” he said. Riders and passengers are also literally covered when it rains with the provision of brightly coloured raincoats.
Moreover, Abasi said the company invests in the training of its riders.
Ridwan Olalere, OPay’s director of products said the first safety training for the motorbike riders yielded a 50% pass.
He said measures, such as monthly safety class for the riders, have been put in place to ensure maximum safety of the riders and their passengers.
“All ORide motorbikes come with a pre-adjusted speed limit of 60kmph,” Olalere said. “Also, the motorbikes have unique tracking devices attached to them and can be tracked online in real-time.”
Apart from the safety measures put in place, Abasi said ORide is providing financial empowerment to its riders. With the potential to employ about 100, 000 tax-paying jobs, Abasi said ORide can buoy the personal finances of its riders and the economy of the cities in which it operates.
“ORide is just one of those channels we consider vital to achieving our goals of providing access to financial services and improving the quality of life of low-income families,” he said.
With the likes of Gokada and Max Okada hoping to eat into its market share, Abasi insisted that ORide is better placed to dominate in the market in spite of the competition.
“It is a bad thing when you don’t have competition,” he said. “How we differentiate ourselves is in our innovation.”
* Figures based on Lagos State statistics.