It all started with Uber..
When Uber launched in Nairobi, in January 2015, few imagined the impact they would have on how people move around. Taking a taxi in Nairobi used to be a dreadful experience, with smelly, old ramshackles being the norm. Drivers, at times as smelly as their cars, would more often than not use any opportunity to overcharge you, on top of their already high rates. Waiting for a particular taxi driver would quickly teach you that “five” minutes meant twenty. If someone actually told you “twenty minutes”, you could just as well get some popcorn, and start watching a movie.
In the 2.5 years Uber has been operating in Kenya, moving around has become so cheap and convenient that during rush hour, people will leave their own cars and hail a cab, just to avoid the frustration of driving through the traffic madness. Drinking and driving, a notorious habit of Nairobians, finally also seems to be declining, thanks to the 24/7 availability of Uber drivers. With an estimated 1000+ Uber drivers in Nairobi alone, availability is rarely an issue.
Then came the local challengers!
The success of Uber, combined with a strong, widespread entrepreneurial spirit in Kenya, has caused Kenyan developers to go ballistic in a scramble for markets shares. Little Cabs (backed by Safaricom), Sendy, Dandia, Sasa Cabs and Maramoja are among the most notable local players that have launched, or are preparing to launch taxi hailing apps. To avoid falling behind, local taxi companies Kenatco and Pewin Cabs have also launched their own apps.
International Uber competitors Taxify and Mondo are also active in the Kenyan market, while Lyft are said to be planning a market entry anytime soon.
Availability is now rapidly spreading to other cities in Kenya, with Uber cabs rarely being more than 2 minutes away anywhere in Mombasa.
The competitive situation is typical of the current Kenyan business environment, with a vibrant tech scene rapidly producing local alternatives to incoming international giants. Little Cabs, however, are taking it one step further, expanding to Uganda and Nigeria. With a breakneck competition at home, and and a better adaptation to local market requirements, might we see the Kenya taxi apps giving their international competitors a run for their money across Africa in the coming years? Watch this space.