Technology gives Nigeria's motorcycle taxis a makeover.

Author:Unah, Linus
Position:TECHNOLOGY

Motorcycle taxis are a popular means of transport in congested Lagos. The sector is dominated by unlicensed drivers, but new tech firms using ride-hailing apps are rapidly moving into the market.

Smallholder farmer Mohammed Abubakar knew he had few chances of earning a decent living in Bida town in central Nigeria's Niger state, so he decided to move to Lagos last year. Once there, Abubakar only got offers in lower paid jobs such as security work.

"I realised that most people from my village were motorcycle taxi drivers and they were doing well," says the father of two. He used his savings to buy a motorcycle and now he is earning enough to allow his wife and children to join him in Lagos.

However, motorcycle taxi drivers like Abubakar cannot drive around Lagos freely. In late 2012, Lagos state authorities banned motorbike taxis from operating on several main roads as part of an effort to reduce the chaos that characterises this megacity with a population of more than 20m. Several other states have imposed similar bans, citing rising motorcycle-related accidents and fear that armed robbers are using motorcycles to carry out drive-by robberies. Commercial motorcyclists have gained notoriety for committing traffic offences and ignoring safety procedures such as wearing helmets.

Despite the ban, motorcycle taxi drivers are ubiquitous in Lagos, though they operate with caution and try to keep away from main roads, bridges and wealthy neighbourhoods. They have to contend with security officials who often impound their bikes and demand payment of fines.

With these problems in mind, two Nigerian entrepreneurs --Chinedu Azodoh and Adetayo Bamiduro --teamed up in June 2017 to launch MAXOkada, a motorcycle taxi-hailing app. Drawing on their experience in running Metro Africa Express, a logistics startup they founded in 2015, and from the expansion of ride-hailing services like Uber and Taxify into Lagos, they realised that there was a need for a motorbike service to relieve traffic congestion. In January, another app known as Gokada started operations in Lagos. The goal for both firms is to provide a motorbike taxi service that is safe, affordable and readily available.

Known as okada in Nigeria and boda boda in East Africa, motorcycle taxis thrive because of poor urban planning, lack of adequate public transport, unemployment and low car ownership. In addition, bikes can easily travel on bad roads and narrow streets and remote areas where cars...

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