In the past two weeks, there has been a bit of furore around the rather suspiciously timed launch of EkoCab, a ride-hailing service tailored towards the hitherto ‘forgotten’ yellow cabs of Lagos and also private cars like the Ubers and Bolts of this world. The announcement was greeted with scepticism and even criticism and this was in no small part down to the timing. Only a month or so prior, the Lagos State Government had effectively banned the use of motorcycle taxis popularly known as okada in choice areas of the city and state. To make matters worse, they went on to mount pressure on hailing apps like Uber and Bolt who had been operating in the state for nearly five years. The adverse effects on the masses and the seemingly selfish stance of the government have made for bad PR both for the government and the company itself.
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The CEO and co-founder of EkoCab (Node e-Hailing Services), Segun Cole took to Twitter to defend the seeming untenable position of his companies’ service in the eyes of the public. In a series of tweets, he stated that while he may have consulted with the state government on ‘mobility’, his company is entirely privately owned and had nothing to do with the state government that had its fingerprints all over the enterprise. He did acknowledge that he was on the wrong side of the PR battle as both Uber and Bolt have been in negotiations with the Lagos State following the recent clampdowns on their drivers over incomplete documentation. Even as that is happening, the ride-hailing space has welcomed the arrival of a new player in, InDriver, who are offering lower prices as is expected of a newcomer looking to gain a foothold in a new market.
So in truth, the business has kicked off to a troubled beginning in an already complicated market and the negativity around it stems from a few factors: first of all, the connection with the Lagos State government gives off the air of a play by the government towards monopoly in a sector that they see as highly profitable and want more than just a piece off but do not seem to understand well enough. This is not helped by the fact that people have come to view the government as anti-people with it multiple taxations and poor service delivery; secondly, yellow cabs and other officially sanctioned taxi services are not well regarded by commuters and the rise of Uber and Bolt has given them a much-needed reprieve from their troubles.
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Taxi drivers are seen as not willing to work and even when they do, they charge unusually high prices for even the shortest of distances. Some have even been complicit in criminal activities in the past and have even been restricted from access to many of the areas that the class of people who use ride-hailing services live. However, in fairness to EKoCab, they have put forward that taxi drivers who have been left behind in the mobility wars deserve a chance to compete. EkoCab intends to train their drivers and equip them with smartphones and even provide loans through corporate partnership and “government loans” for new drivers to get cars especially those who intend to partner privately.
In the interim, the public will keep its fingers crossed as only time will tell if the idea will fly or just fall flat. While it is not innovative by any stretch of the imagination, the app might take off if it is as affordable and convenient as the developers promise, for those are the two biggest factors for commuters in patronizing these services. EkoCab has a lot of negativity and scepticism around it to last a good while as many people have even taken to Google Play Store to give the app bad reviews to force it to be kicked as many are still pained that the government has not reconsidered its “okada ban” but there is nothing good and efficient service cannot fix, so we may sit back and observe the mobility wars play out. I mean let us not forget that Uber, Bolt and OCar may be reviewing their mode of service delivery in the aftermath of the negotiations with Lagos State Government. So it will be interesting for invested neutrals like myself. Once again, fingers crossed.
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