How a Pandemic Shifted Africa’s Motorcycle Taxi Services

In many African cities, the solution is right around the corner, where readily available motorcycle taxis will take you almost anywhere in a matter of minutes. Prized for their efficiency — and dreaded for their overconfident drivers — these taxis are an essential part of mobility on the continent. Tech entrepreneurs have been taking note of the efficiency and popularity of the two-wheelers. In the past five years, motorcycle-hailing apps have sprung up across Africa, competing to be the most popular “Uber for motorcycles.” In Uganda, SafeBoda has made a name for itself as a hassle-free alternative to the informal motorcycle taxis, while in West Africa, Max.ng, a Nigerian company, is about to scale up operations. And in Rwanda, Ampersand is introducing a fleet of electric motorcycle taxis. Motorcycle taxi service providers are beginning to branch out from ferrying passengers to delivering products, tapping into Africa’s emerging e-commerce market. Inadequate infrastructure — coupled with limited and expensive internet connectivity — has long hobbled Africa’s e-commerce ambitions, so much so that Amazon doesn’t offer e-commerce services on the continent, even though it has tech hubs there. The companies behind the motorcycle taxi apps believe they can overcome those limitations. And the pandemic has sped up this transition, according to industry analyst and former venture capitalist Osarumen Osamuyi.

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