• Kees Kibinda

Africab, Abidjan's answer to Uber

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

At the time of the making of this video, Ivory Coast were crowned the African champions in the Africa Cup of Nations. The country’s GDP is growing at a rate of 10 percent per annum and were on track to becoming the fastest growing economy on the continent in 2017.

Vansie Goma, originally from the Republic of Congo (not to be mistaken with Congo DR), but grew up in the US and in Europe before meeting his Ivorian wife and found his way to Abidjan. Here he set up Africab in 2016. I know that generalisation is usually a bad thing, but, let’s be honest; the traffic, and the cars, the deplorable state of the roads, is the same in most African countries.

You know; the traffic is crazy and there are potholes everywhere. The taxis and the buses never drive in a straight line because, not only are they trying to avoid potholes, but they are also driving sideways because the bearings are just broken; you know the springs of the car.

Sometimes you’ll find crazy animals haphazardly crossing the road. There are people crossing the road without looking. Nobody abides by the highway code. When there is a big traffic jam, some cars will try squeeze by in the emergency lane or opposing lane. There is just utter chaos.

And in chaos, one sees opportunity. Which is exactly what Vangsy Goma saw. He saw old taxis driving around that were roughly 20 years, with terrible air condition and because it was not easy to move around town he decided that there must be something that could be done.

Encouraged by the growing economy in Ivory Coast, along with a growing middle class; he decided that the time was ripe to start a company and namely, a proper taxi company. Now most people automatically think of Uber, but this company is not set up the same way.

The company was launched in February of 2016 with one billion CFA Francs which roughly is about 1.5 million Euro’s (per 2017) of which 800,000 Euros were loaned from the bank. This goes to show that there is a lot of confidence in this service.

Now the difference with Uber is that Africab owns its own fleet of cars and employs the chauffeurs. There is a choice of 4 different cabs that you can book:

The black cab which is a normal sedan The presti cab which is the prestigious cab of course The 4X4 cab in case you need to go somewhere where the roads are bad The Maxi-cab that can transport a group of 6 to 8 people

It is not possible to hail these cabs from the side of the road. The only way that the booking can be done is via a taxi app or through their website Africa-cab.com. Furthermore, the drivers are taught and trained on how they should drive which means that the highway code is adhered to by these drivers. On top of that, they are taught to provide an excellent customer service to let the client know that they are valued.

A traditional taxi fare will be cheaper than taking an africab. With a traditional taxi cab, the average fare is around 2000 CFA Francs (roughly 2.60 euros), as compared to the 3300 CFA Francs you will be paying when using Africab. However, you get more perks with the latter. The driver drives better because he adheres to the Highway Code meaning that there is less stress, the cars are in a better condition, there is a tablet system in the car as well as a free wi-fi, so you will be traveling with comfortable ease. Plus the fares are fixed; so there is no need to haggle over the price. Perfect right?

That the company’s strategy is successful should come as no surprise. The turnover in April 2016 was 20 million CFA Francs and this had already more than doubled by end of September 2016 to 60 million CFA Francs. In fact, the company is doing so well that they are looking to expand into other countries. Namely in Lomé; the capital of Togo and Cotonou; the economic capital of Benin.

Now of course there are hurdles that need to be overcome. For example, in Abidjan, like in many other African cities, a lot of alleys and backroads do not have any official names. In order to over come this; people will use landmarks to show where they need to go or where they are.

Vangsy Goma claims that he is trying to build an entrepreneurial culture that is based on technology and respects the African identity, and Vangsy, from what I have heard and seen so far; I can say that you are on the right track. It truly is the new way to get around town.

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