African potholes

“I WAS lucky my customers were three big white guys,” says Themba, an Uber driver in Johannesburg recounting a close call with taxi-drivers who tried to block him from collecting passengers at the airport that serves South Africa’s economic hub. “They pushed them out the way and we managed to drive off.”

The ride-hailing app has made a splashy if slow start in Africa. Of the 529 cities in which Uber connects riders with drivers, just 14 are on the continent. Yet Africa is fertile ground for a firm offering cheap and safe transport. Most passengers have to spring for overpriced cabs or catch a white-knuckled ride on the back of a motorcycle taxi.

In Abuja, locals have long used a low-tech version of ride-sharing. Many folk simply stick out a hand at the roadside to hail any passing car before negotiating a fare. Yet locals warn that fake taxis cruise the streets with robbers hiding in the boot, ready to jump out at a traffic light. In Lagos some taxi-drivers are even thought to be in cahoots with kidnappers. Not surprisingly, Uber seems to be growing quickly in the few cities where it has launched. In many places rides cost less…Continue reading

This post was originally published in the Economist.

African potholes

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