Has Uber Nigeria Lost The Plot?

Nigeria’s journalistic ‘brown envelope’ culture means it is almost impossible to write a honest review or launch constructive criticism of a company and its methods.  Some of the companies issue swift rebuttals, attributing your ‘campaign of calumny’ to having received money from their competitors.

What is more commonplace is that they ignore your concerns until it goes away, after all, Nigerians have notoriously short memories. So, hold your horses, I’m neither a hater or a paid critique.

Nigeria’s large population and sheer spending power has attracted several businesses over the years. The increased proliferation of Mobile telephony also means that businesses which were once unthinkable here have now set up shop. The promise of making a profit in Nigeria is so tempting that many companies overlook the myriad of challenges- a lack of electricity, government bureaucracy, bad road among others.

Uber joined the horde of foreign investors in Nigeria in 2014, a few years after it had begun its global dominance. Lagos was its testing ground and success was almost instant. It is not so difficult to see what made Uber so successful in Lagos. Lagos taxis are mostly rickety old things driven by men who should be in retirement homes but instead prowl the roads in search of who to fleece.

Lagosians are also notoriously showy, why announce your entrance in a Yellow cab when you can employ the pretense of having a driver at your beck and call? Most importantly, it took away the need to haggle, you simply paid at a predetermined rate for the distance covered. So, one luxury vehicle at a time, Uber began to conquer the congested Lagos roads and the decision to experiment with a cash payment option was a stroke of genius.

Uber then made a risky move to the Abuja market, where cabs are relatively affordable. For a while, it appeared Uber Nigeria had got it pat down and could do no wrong.

Then the Nigerian bug hit

Anyone who is familiar with Nigerian businesses understands how complacency always sets in once they corner a fair share of the market. The signs are always the same, crappy service, crappier customer service, an inability to manage an expanding network and a generous sprinkle of fake promos.

Curiously, in Nigeria, there is dissatisfaction with Uber on every side of the divide- the riders as well as the customers.
The Abuja Forum, a group of Uber drivers in Abuja went on strike to demand improved conditions to make the job worthwhile. Lagos Uber drivers also demanding improvements in a protest on Wednesday in Ikoyi, while also threatening a strike action.

Uber’s 50% Off Rides Promo


Like everyone else, I was excited when Uber rolled out this promo but my excitement was shortlived. Uber conveniently left out the fact that you could not get prices slashes above N2,000 per day and most maddening, there were price surges ALL THROUGH THE PROMO PERIOD.

What use is a 50% off if you jack up prices?

Is it safe to conclude at this point to conclude that the Nigeria bug of ‘we have arrived’ and bitten Uber and we have to move on to?

There has been no stiff competition to deny Uber the possibility of fully wielding its monopoly and without the proper regulatory frameworks, monopolies in these parts tend to just do whatever pleases them.

In the final analysis, I sincerely hope Uber resolves its issues before a more focused competitor cashes in on their inefficiency. That said, where is Uber’s competition??


Update: Uber Nigeria got in touch with us and had this to say:

”In our many focus groups with driver-partners a suggestion was made for Uber to look at ways to get new riders to use the app for the first time. The 50% off marketing campaign was at the cost of Uber, meaning driver-partners did not have to pay for this promotion. Should any driver-partner have any questions or concerns about this campaign, they are welcome to contact us via our support channels and we will further explain the mechanics of the campaign to them.” Samantha Allenberg, Communications, Uber Africa.


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