Pan-African mobility startup Treepz has pivoted into becoming a car-sharing marketplace that allows car owners to put their vehicles up for rent. According to the startup, this pivot is a more affordable and sustainable option for mobility in Africa.
With this move, Treepz is looking to reinvent its mobility business in a rather unexplored niche. The premise is simple: there are 44 cars to 1,000 Africans, demonstrating a high demand for affordable transportation. Treepz aims to fill this gap by allowing people to rent a car only when they need it and for rental periods ranging from hourly to monthly use. On the app, cars can be rented for about ₦30,000 ($65) to ₦93,000 ($210) daily, but the company believes that as more car owners are onboarded into the system, the consequent price competition will further drive down prices for users.
In a statement shared with TechCabal, Treepz’s CEO, Onyeka Akumah, shared how Treepz’s new focus is meeting the pain points of car owners and renters on the continent. “The new Treepz is an exciting innovation for transportation in Africa. We are making better use of more than 26 million vehicles available on the continent to provide commuters with enjoyable and fun transportation service as they travel for work or simply enjoy a smooth ride across the safaris in the continent,” he said.
“Today we are regarded as the largest car-sharing marketplace in Africa and we have seized that opportunity with the technology we’ve built for hosts (vehicle owners or rental companies) to manage their inventory, reach new customers and track their growth. While guests who book from these hosts have the luxury to select their dream car for work, pleasure or exploration with a vetted driver,” Akumah added.
Per the press release, Treepz has spent the last five months building its marketplace product and is now rolling it out to users in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya. This marketplace, which Treepz claims to be Africa’s largest for car-sharing, holds a variety of vehicles including sedans, SUVs, vans, and buses. The business model involves renters or “guests” choosing their desired cars based on location and duration while the vetted car owners or “hosts” set their preferred prices and availability.
Africa’s car-sharing market is nascent, with few active players and hardly any market leader. Treepz believes that its solution, coupled with its experiences in the African markets it has operated in, can position the startup as a top market leader in Africa’s fledging car-sharing market. Speaking to the competition posed by the prevalent ride-sharing model and operators, Treepz’s cofounder, Johnny Enagwolor, shared in an interview with TechCabal, some competitive advantages of the startup’s play.
“From a user standpoint, the pricing is better with our car-sharing model. Ride-hailing companies would charge a lot for a full day’s ride, compared to the daily offers on our platform. Also, we have a collection of cars—including trucks and luxury cars—that are not typically used for ride-hailing, thereby expanding the choice for our users. Finally, we are operating at a wider scope, with a system that can operate in more cities than the ones ride-hailing companies are choosing to focus on.”
Enagwolor also shared that Treepz’s car-sharing play is not particularly new to the company, as they had tried out the model for some customers in the past, albeit in a non-digitised play. “Eventually, we took a hard look at the business to find out what model was giving us the best margins and could scale better. Then we decided to take a full pivot toward car-sharing,” he revealed.
Treepz raised $2.8 million in 2021 and scaled its suite of mobility solutions by acquiring mobility startups in Ghana and Uganda. In Nigeria, it provided three main services, including an Uber-like service for minivans, an intercity travel solution, and a corporate mobility solution for businesses. Now, the startup is discontinuing its previous models to focus on this new mobility vertical, bolstered by a vision of becoming Africa’s premier car-sharing marketplace.
Treepz was founded in 2019 by Onyeka Akumah and is backed by notable investors such as Google, SOSV, Goodwater Capital, Techstars, and GIIG Africa Fund.