Emergence of e-hailing app companies
By ‘Wagbemiga Mary-Peter Onifade
On Aug 28, 2020
Hailing a cab on the street is today fashionable due largely to the advancement of technology. A far cry from it was the experience at the time of the Early Man or the inception of automobile. From time immemorial, man has had to devise means of transportation for himself and the movement of his goods from one place to another, using different means available to him. In ancient time, the camel was the only available means of transportation known to man. And only kings and the wealthy used horses. Soon enough, camel and horses became the general mode of transportation available to both the wealthy and the poor.
“The history of the automobile and with it the history of driving dates back to the beginning of the 19th century – in 1808, a French inventor named François Isaac de Rivaz decided to put a hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine on a cart and he managed to get the machine moving”. There is no doubt that the history of an automobile predates the achievement of François Isaac de Rivaz. However, like those before him, he was not credited as the inventor of the automobile.
“The first gasoline-powered engine used to propel a pushcart was assembled in 1870 by a German inventor called Siegfried Marcus. He continued to refine the engine and in 1880 he presented a vehicle fitted with a four-stroke gas engine, magneto ignition, a sophisticated steering system, brakes and a clutch. His inventions were used and further refined by Nikolaus Otto and Rudolph Diesel” (ibid.). These achievements, notwithstanding, it was not until 1885 before Karl Benz assembled the first gasoline-powered automobile; giving man the first motorcar.
The advancement of information and communication technology (ICT) in the 20th Century accelerated development in all facet of human life, including transportation mode. The 21st Century, in particular, saw the development of e-hailing services and products; wherein, one can other a ride online to pick goods or human beings at different locations.
George Arison was the first man to introduce an electronic system of hailing a cab in 2007. He co-founded Taxi Magic now known as Curb. Unfortunately for him, he did not have an online payment mode; clients had to pay at the office. This problem existed until Garrett Camp, a computer programmer and the co-founder of StumbleUpon, and Travis Kalanick, birthed e-hailing transport system in 2009 called Ubercab; offering both online and cash payment modes.
They were followed in 2011 by Sunil Paul (who patented the idea of hailing a ride via mobile app in 2002) with his Sidecar. Lyft was launched in 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer. Careem began operations in July 2012. Flywheel came on-board as a pure app company in December 2012; also offering both online and cash payments. Bolt came on-board in August of 2013 by Markus Villig (a 19-year-old high school student). It was formerly known as Taxify.
Since the inception of the first e-hailing app company, there has been an upsurge of more e-hailing app companies with hundreds of thousands of drivers all over the world using the apps. In Nigeria particularly, there has been a spring of e-hailing companies with some already established, viz: Uber, Bolt, Indrivers, Oga taxi, Drop, KarryGo, Mr Taxi, Ola Cab and Taxi Naija. We also have Caexie, Jekalo, Rideme, Ride on, Naija Taxi, Waka4Town, Ofero and MyKab, which is a new indigenous company in the industry.
According to Statista (a Global Business Data Platform), revenue in the Ride-Hailing & Taxi sector in Africa is projected to reach US$2.5 Billion in 2021. They also project that by 2024, Africa will have 57 million users and 26% of total revenue in the transportation sector will be generated through the use of apps. No doubt, there is a lot of room for new players to enter and dominate the sector.
While e-hailing has brought phenomenal and transformational exploits and advancements to public transportation system around the world, the majority of the e-hailing app companies have always evaded government regulations and oversight. This is due largely to their aim of maximizing profits without any care to the plight of the drivers who provide the vehicles. As such, government regulation is seen by the app companies, not just as interference but also, as limiting their potentials to revolutionize the e-hailing sector of the transport system.
They operate from unfair pricing and commission to alienating and victimization of drivers, to disregard for regulatory authorities, among others. Sexual assault of women, kidnapping, extortion and numerous safety concerns led to government regulations of the sector. Both the drivers and riders were at the mercy of the app companies until the government came on-board to salvage the situation.
The city of London was the first city in the world to regulate the activities of commercial transporters, with its Transportation for London (TfL) regulation -Greater London Authority Act 1999; which became operational on 3rd July, 2000. California was the first city to regulate the activities of the app companies in 2013 with her California Public Utilities Commission. This was as an upshot of the drivers complaining of ill-treatment from the app companies.
‘Wagbemiga Mary-Peter Onifade
Writer, biographer and profiler