By Prince Osuagwu(Hi-Tech Editor)
Following Uber’s retreat from South East Asia, a region it has invested over $700 million, the speculation was rife that the ride hailing app cum Technology Company’s next market to exit was Nigeria even though it remains the company’s highest catchment in African market.
The speculation was fuelled more by several opinions that having sold its businesses in Russia, China before the Southeast Asia the company may be strategising on how to shrink operations to the U.S., Europe and possibly some parts of Latin America
But the company’s vice president overseeing Europe, Middle East and Africa, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, visited Lagos, Nigeria exactly when these speculations were on.
Hi-Tech ceased the opportunity of his visit to seek clarification on the issue and Coty said that rather than affect Nigeria operation, Uber’s exit from South East Asia will boost its operations here.
Pardon my curiosity. Speculations are on the high that Uber may be exiting Nigeria to pursue a concise operation with US, Europe and perhaps some parts of Latin America; after all, you exited South East Asia after spending over $700 m there?
Good question. But you can see that my presence in Nigeria signifies a deep interest and huge respect that we have for this market.
Yes, Uber aligned operations with a local operator in South East Asia. That does not mean exiting everywhere we have operations. If anything, that action will benefit Nigeria and indeed the African market, the more.
We are very committed to Nigeria and other African markets we operate in. We see huge potential on the continent, based on its massive population.
Just as you admitted that Nigeria is a huge market, you can also agree with me that your business is growing here. Can we match your growth with statistics?
Of course I agree that Uber is doing well here. The business is having tremendous growth in Nigeria but there are still opportunities for more growth, considering the huge population and size of market. In terms of statistics, we currently have 130,000 people that use Uber to move around, daily. There are about 9,000 active drivers on a regular basis in Nigeria and 70 per cent of our driver partners use the income they generate to meet family needs.
You have very serious competitors here. If you left South East Asia because you couldn’t displace a local operator, what’s the guarantee you may not leave Nigeria if competition is getting ahead of you?
Competition is something that we genuinely celebrate anywhere we operate. Competition helps us to be more innovative in both customer and driver partners’ experiences. Also, note that our aligning operations with a local operator in South East Asia was not because we couldn’t displace them. Besides, the situation is different here. If you look around you see that what every other person is trying to do is copy our technologies and processes. You can also tell that they are only copying and a copied solution cannot be like the original. That is why we are unique, that is why competition will always remain behind.
So what kinds of technologies give Uber this unique outlook you are flaunting?
Well, we are the only global player that has the same app that could work in different countries of the world, and this is something that a lot of consumers who travel around the world value a lot. Again, we invest the most in technology and we have several thousands of engineers that are working very hard to ensure that our driver partners and riders get the best of Uber experience. We are keen about safety of our riders and driver partners, so we invest in technologies that will help us achieve that objective. Our app allows riders to see the driver partners, get their details and also share the trips details with their friends. It helps someone out there that you trust, to know your location at any given time. We also have 24/7 support for our riders and drivers. All these make us different from our competitors and have made us remain top player in our line of business.
Is Uber actually thinking of shrinking its operations to focus on specific locations like the US, Europe and Latin America for instance?
Thank you for the question. Like you said earlier, these are speculations. Uber is fully committed to the African markets just the same way it focuses on the European and US markets. There was a time when some investors were expressing their views that Uber should refocus efforts on Europe and the US. This, created a number of question marks how important is the African market to Uber. But I can assure Africans and Nigerians that Uber is committed to the African markets, just the same way it is committed to other markets outside Africa. We are trying to double our operations across the African markets, because we are extremely excited about the opportunities in Africa.
Since you are progressing in the Nigerian market and have reiterated commitment to the African market, why has it taken you eternity to introduce the Uber pool in Nigeria?
We promised to introduce UberPool in Nigeria and we are truly committed to it. But certain infrastructure and processes need to be in place to drive it. We are hopeful that with the way the country is developing, UberPool will thrive here. It will solve a lot of transportation problems for Nigerian commuters
You introduced Uber Greenlight Hubs in Nigeria recently, will that solve the problem of your driver partners or riders being kidnapped occasionally as have been witnessed here a couple of times?
While such incidents do not have anything to do with Uber specifically but an entirely security issue specific to wherever they happen, we as Uber, believe that information is knowledge and knowledge is power. So if through the GreeLight Hub provides information that would help driver partners secure themselves and the riders, a problem has been solved.
We are big believers of the power of physical interactions and we felt that in order to serve our drivers better, we need that kind of physical contact between Uber and its drivers in ways that are more direct than the use of emails for communication, hence we created the Uber Greenlight Hubs in different locations around the cities where we operate in Nigeria. It is a centre for interaction and sharing of ideas and experiences between drivers and Uber staff. We understand that not all drivers can interact via emails, so the Uber Greenlight Hubs make it easier for them to interact and share their experiences and challenges in the course of doing their business as Uber drivers.