Ride hailing company, Uber says regulatory concerns will now play a bigger role in its expansion plans across Africa. The company made this known during a recent townhall event held in Lagos, Nigeria.
The company’s Global Head of Business Development, Brooks Entwistle disclosed that Uber is working to make its service available in more African countries, but will not ignore regulatory issues in these countries.
“Uber is no longer a startup,” said Brooks. He says because Uber is now a public company, it can’t ignore regulation anymore when expanding to more African countries.
“If you think about where Uber can get growth in the future, then you really need to think about many of these African countries and megacities as big opportunities for us down the road,” he said.
But as Uber “thinks about opportunities in Nigeria [and Africa],” he discloses, “we are 100% working with the regulators, with the government, the regulators and existing transportation providers…”
“Few years ago, Uber would show up in a city and a few days later, Uber services would spring up”, says Adeniran Haastrup, Legal Counsel for Uber in Africa at the townhall. Some of the company’s global expansions led to controversies and issues that put the company in a negative light. “We don’t want to do this anymore”, he adds.
“We want to be regulated, because regulation promotes servitude”, says Brooks.
Quick growth strategy had been the popular thinking in the early years of Uber. Under former CEO, Travis Kalanick, Uber had engaged in a cutthroat approach to global expansion, entering new markets while disregarding existing regulatory practices. Within seven years of its launch, the company had expanded to over 400 cities in every continent of the world.
Now however, the company has toned down these tendencies. After overhauling its corporate culture, Uber now considers regulation important before expanding to any market.
The company has announced plans to expand to more countries in Africa with Ivory Coast and Senegal topping its list. Brooks Entwistle disclosed that Uber has started talks with governments in both countries concerning regulations.
The company is also mulling expanding its new services like boat transportation and bike hailing to other countries. UberBoda, its bike hailing service was introduced in East Africa last year, but the company is in no hurry to expand it into large markets like Nigeria and South Africa.
Justin Spratt, Uber’s Head of Business Development for Africa and the Middle East, says the company won’t launch the service until the regulatory concerns have been addressed.
Brook shared that Uber knows “a lot about the two wheeler and three wheeler business from our experience around the world”. But “we’re going to watch and see how this plays out here [in Africa] and of course anything we do will only be in concert with the regulators,” he concluded.
Uber is also in the process of launching a boat transportation business in Lagos Nigeria. Uber Boats, as they are called, already operates in Croatia and Egypt. But the company wants to sort out all regulatory issues before launching the service in Lagos.
Uber’s Brooks says he met with the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other partners early in the week for discussions on this. So far, there is no timeline for the launch of the service in Lagos.