Bike-Hailing Business Perils in Nigeria: Examining SafeBoda's Masterplan

Bike-Hailing Business Perils in Nigeria: Examining SafeBoda's Masterplan

After the Lagos state government ban on motorcycles, residents are having to deal with fare hikes and staking their mental health. The ban has also led to the diversification of startups such as Maxng, and Gokada as well as failed business operations as in the case of OPay‘s ORide among others.

Of the bike-hailing startups that struggled for markets to expand to, one particular startup was saved by a well-thought business strategy and would now stand the test of time to see how it subsequently operates.

The company, SafeBoda, co-founded by Alastair Sussock, Maxime Dieudonné, and Rapa Thomson Ricky launched in Uganda in 2015 as the first bike-hailing company and has been dominant in the market despite the testing of motorcycles by Taxify (Bolt) and Uber in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Expecting its massive turnout in the Nigerian market just like it was able to resist competition in Uganda, there were yet concerns that Bolt, Uber and other bike-hailing companies would knock the startup off. Before its 2019 (delayed) launch in Nigeria, the company launched operations in another East African hot spot, Kenya in 2018 where it had to exit the market in 2020 due to covid-19 implications and other factors.

In Kenya, essentially the East African globe, Boda Boda is a large industry and is a key employer economy. Leveraging the potential of the industry, SafeBoda invested in the bike-hailing business in the country but was challenged by local competitors and other startups which included UberBODA, JuuBODA and BoltBODA.

SafeBoda’s Launch in Nigeria

Maxime Dieudonne, Alastair Sussock, and Ricky Rapa Thomson

Following its online presence and due consultations by meeting with the Lagos and Oyo state government, former Country Head of SafeBoda, Babajide Durosola led the plan to risk an unfavourable Lagos market for Ibadan, Oyo state’s capital.

By the end of the year after its launch, the company had completed half a million rides making it unmatchable with other competitors in growth terms. Key to its success may also be its arm of industry investor GoVentures (GoJek), an Indonesian leading on-demand mobility and two-wheeler service platform; and a host of other VCs which include: Allianz X, Unbound, Beenext and Justin Kan. In 2021, it also became the first recipient of the $50 million Africa Investment Fund launched by Google.

On March 4 2022, the company announced its three million rides milestone under the succeeding Country Head of SafeBoda in Nigeria, Olaoluwa Arokoyu. It also has plans to expand across the country.

Apart from its bike-hailing operation, it has included its airtime and delivery services in its super app while it announced the testing of its car-hailing service testing in Uganda and Nigeria in September 2022.