Uber launched a boat service in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, as the global transport company continues its expansion plans in Africa’s largest economy.
The boat service will now undergo a two-week pilot phase, Uber officials said at a press conference on Friday.
The launch of the service comes months after Global Head of Business Development, Brooks Entwistle said in June that the company was looking to expand its offerings in Africa.
The service, UberBOAT, is being operated in conjunction with the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA).
The boat will be available four times during the day from the Ikorodu Ferry Terminal on the mainland and Five Cowries Terminal on the island. The boat will only be available on weekdays, Tayo Oyegunle, Uber Nigeria’s country manager, told TechCabal.
Only two boats are involved in the pilot phase.
Passengers will be charged a flat fee of N500 ($1.39) for all boat trips with the company also offering 50% discounts on car rides to either jetty, Oyegunle added. Oyegunle said passengers will be able to book rides in advance of their trips using the boat interface that will be available on the Uber app from today. Each boat can carry up to 35 passengers.
The boat service was launched by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor who said his government was happy to partner with Uber as a means to reduce congestion on Lagos roads. Sanwo-Olu took the inaugural ride alongside Uber officials and other government officers.
“We have a small land space in Lagos to move over 10% of this country’s population,” Sanwo-Olu said.
“We’re partnering with the private sector to ease the lives of our people.”
Lola Kassim, the company’s General Manager for West Africa said the launch of the service is Uber’s first foray into boat transport in sub-Saharan Africa.
Lagos is home to 22 million people and counting, more than double New York and London’s tally and as such experiences excruciating traffic in a city largely built on water.
In 2017, Uber launched its boat offering in Cairo, Egypt in partnership with Nile Taxi.
This new service marks yet another frontier for the global ride-hailing company in its bid to dominate the transport market as it deals with competitors on several fronts in Africa and Nigeria particularly. Estonia-owned Bolt (formerly Taxify) is another player on the Nigerian ride-hailing scene and the dreaded traffic in Lagos has seen the emergence of a number of bike-hailing apps in the metropolis.