Ethiopia’s Ubers on the Rise




Times are constantly changing and each of our old, inconvenient ways of life along with them. Even the ways in which people used to do the most random things like hunting down a taxi have become modernised. Making them safer, quicker and more convenient than ever. And even though the world is no stranger to such a system by now, our country is just getting its first test through the recently flourishing taxi-hailing applications, reports HAWI ABDISA, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.


Unlike her peers, Rodas Mulugeta, a 22-year-old software engineering student, does not spend her days either buried in her books or doing small pointless things. Rather she is a busy young woman who runs her business when she is not occupied by her classes.

Incidentally, this busy life style means several late nights spent outside, which in turn calls for a means of transportation that would get her home safe and sound at the end of her long tiring days.

This has made Rodas one of the 30,000 subscribers that are currently registered in the database of one of the taxi hailing applications, ZayRide.

“I spend two to three nights out, which makes a consistent and convenient form of transportation a necessity for me,” explains Rodas.

Gone are the days when one had to hail a taxi in the middle of the night cumbersomely. Maybe one would happen to luckily fly by, but it is still risky not knowing into whose hands one is entrusting their life and property.

Today, flagging a taxi and getting a transportation service can be done through one’s cell phone, and the different taxi hailing applications that have recently flourished.

ZayRide is one of such app established in January 2016 by Habtamu Taddesse, a University of Massachusetts graduate. Today, the application has close to 30,000 users registered on its system and more than 540 drivers at its disposal to give their services through the app.

And anyone who plans on getting a taxi service needs to download the application and register on the system. Once a potential customer registers, he or she could tap one of the ride options and automatically see the drivers that are in their approximate area. All one had to do next is choose and send their request.

Gone are the days when one had to hail a taxi in the middle of the night cumbersomely.



When a customer taps on the ride option, the application automatically shows the wait time and an estimat price of that specific ride.

After receiving the requests, the drivers that are in the system give their acceptance and head to the exact location of the customer. The Global Positioning System (GPS ) tracker on their devices helps the drivers trace their clients.

Currently, the customers of the application make their payment directly from their credit cards that are registered on their file, if any. They can also pay cash or use the M-BIRR, a mobile money service that allows the people to transfer money using a mobile phone at any time and place.

ZayRide App also allows the customer to review the driver’s profile including his full name, license and plate number. These data of the drivers’ is fed into the system when they are registered by the company.

One of the requirements for any taxi driver who wishes to get on the system is the willingness to take full training and orientation before getting registered on the system. According to Habtamu, the training includes the basics of the app, proper customer service as well as the appropriate code of conduct.

For the services, ZayRide has been working in collaboration with different meter taxi associations ever since its establishment. Abinet Beandnet is one such association whose taxi has been incorporated into the application in the past year.

For Deputy Manager of the Association Temesgen Ephrem, the application is a source of business as it enables him to do his regular job.

“If I am not receiving any requests through the app, I can drive by and pick up other customers,” he asserts.

Ride also gives services to corporate clients who arrange transportation services for their employees.



Currently, ZayRide is not sharing in the drivers’ revenue, giving them a grace period, which is not yet defined. However, upon the conclusion of the period, it will get a calculated commission fee from every ride.

Be that as it may, ZayRide is not the only one of its kind in the country. Its competitor, Ride is a similar type of app, providing taxi hailing services. It was started by Samrawit Fikru, the co-founder and CEO of Hybrid Design PlC, which was first established three years ago with just 40,000 Br capital.

Although the taxi-hailing application was officially launched in March 2017, the company was providing its taxi hailing services offline through Short Message Services (SMS) for the past three years.

Through the SMS service, customers used to text their location to the company’s shortcode that would automatically send it to the drivers registered on its database. After seeing the location, the drivers reply “yes” into the system if they happen to be close by.

The system helps the driver and its customer exchange numbers and be on their way. However, as this was not the most convenient system, Samrawit developed and launched Ride app.

Nonetheless, Ride has a call centre in addition to the app to provide the same service. Curently, Ride is working with Zelucy S.C., which holds 18 taxi associations.

Ride also gives services to corporate clients who arrange transportation services for their employees. Some of these include the Israeli Embassy as well as blueMoon, an initiative founded by Eleni Gebremedhin (PhD) with the main aim of providing agribusiness start-ups that can change the world.

When it comes to corporate clients, who are using apps for their employees, ETTA, a.ka. Ethiopian Taxi, is another taxi-hailing app that comes into the picture. ETTA incorporates 11 organisations under its service such as Ramada Addis Hotel, The Norway Embassy, German Embassy, as well as Swizz Embassy.

Although it shares most of its features with the other two taxi-hailing apps, it has integrated a completely cashless system where payments are only made through pre-paid ETTA cards or credit cards.

Like that of Ride and ZayRide, ETTA also provides the taxi hailing system through its call centre where its customers can pick up their phone and order a taxi.

The application was first developed and launched by Temesgen Geberhiwot (PhD) in South Korea. Currently, there are 180 taxis that give the service through the application and more than 1,000 people download the app.

Established with 700,000 Br, ETTA now has a capital of 1.9 million Br, according to Temesgen. For partners, ETTA has the associations of Bole and Addis Meter taxis.

Although these systems are a recent phenomenon in Ethiopia, they have been around for quite a while in the rest of the world. The major ones are Lyft, Uber, Yellow Curb and Hailo.

Among these and many others though, Uber, a company originally established in the US almost a decade ago, is the most prominent, covering 633 cities worldwide. The system also employs 12,000 people, with its net income at 2.8 billion dollars in 2016.

Even if it has expanded its service and bagged enormous amount of revenue, Uber does not have a single vehicle in Ethiopia.

“I have been to some countries and used several of these systems, including Uber,” says Bereket Bayssa a business man engaged in import and export business and a recent client of ZayRide.

“I am very grateful to see the system launched in Ethiopia; it comes as a relief to me whenever I am just too tired to drive,” he explains.

By HAWI ABDISA
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER





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