Ugandan motorcycle-hailing company SafeBoda will commence operations in January 2020 in Nigeria, months after speculation trailed its initial proposed launch in May, a company official told TechCabal. Founded in 2015, SafeBoda’s proposed launch in Nigeria was first signalled by its hiring of former Andela Community Manager, Babajide Duroshola, as its Country Manager.

SafeBoda will definitively launch next month in southwestern Ibadan, a 130.6km driving distance away from Lagos state where its bikes are yet to be seen.

The company is currently “putting finishing touches” ahead of its launch, the SafeBoda official said. They said the company has just recently concluded driver training in Ibadan.

SafeBoda launches at an interesting time in Nigeria’s motorcycle hailing sector with major players and investments seeking dominance in the space. This year alone has seen some major investments (monetary and human resource) and innovation in the sector: raised a $7 million  Series A round in June and just recently launched its electric bikes which are said to go way faster than the normal 200cc bikes; Gokada raised a $5.3 million Series A round and hired Jobberman co-founder Ayodeji Adewunmi, as co-CEO; and ORide remains backed by the weightiest investments (Opera’s $40 million digital development fund focused solely on Nigeria).

SafeBoda itself, in May, also raised an undisclosed Series B funding in May to help with its expansion plans having raised a $1.1 million fund last year.

But there’s also been a myriad of operational and regulatory challenges, a lot of which has grown vehement from the transport unions which run like Mafias and the state government, which has taken a rather docile stance more or less, to the plight of the bike hailing operators. 

This year saw Gokada temporarily close shop to get its house in order after CEO, Fahim Saleh‘s underwhelming experience with his company’s services while visiting Lagos. Whether this temporary closure and fixing house did Gokada any monumental good remains to be seen.

From a proposed N25 million licensing fee, to a N500 daily levy to operate city-wide, there has been no end to the travails of the operators with regulators formal and informal in Lagos state, certifiably the sector’s biggest and most viable market in the country. There has also been reports of physical altercations and bike seizures. 

SafeBoda’s last foray was into Nairobi, Kenya where it launched mid 2018. The company employs an aggregation model in its cities of operation soliciting the services of local bike riders who are then signed to the platform and receive commissions for rides taken, much like Uber or Bolt. Lagos’ local bike riders on the other hand, are technically operating on borrowed time given that a 2012 decree bans them from operating on more than 500 roads in the city. The law also bans bikes less than 200cc. There are also identity issues and security/safety issues inherent with assimilating these riders to a platform. Operators like MAX and ORide, offer an asset financing model where riders are hired, handed 200cc bikes which they pay for in installments and receive proper training and identification to ensure they can be traced in the event of any security or safety breach.

This might explain why SafeBoda is first launching definitively in Ibadan where much of these problems are nonexistent. ORide launched in Ibadan in July and both operators will now be exploring the market in the western city where gridlock traffic is not an issue, and seeking to grow their services there.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said SafeBoda had launched in Ibadan. Operations will commence in January and this article has been updated to reflect the update.

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