How moove may now be leading to a win for Uber, its drivers, and riders
Sixteen days ago, Uber showed me its other face. It was shockingly unpretty. This was on one of those days, days in which metropolitan Lagos found itself squeezed at the throat by ruthless traffic jams. I’d ordered a ride, but what showed up was certainly the dirtiest Uber in the world. At that moment, as the decrepit automobile idled in front me, Moove — the new-car financing company — began to make much more sense, particularly for situations such as the one in which I just found myself.
See, Moove has always justified its existence by its intention to help more Nigerians acquire new cars. Why does it want to do this? Because research showed that Nigerians weren’t buying new cars.
Why were Nigerians not buying new cars? Was it because Nigerians were allergic to the intoxicating new car smell? Oh no, nothing of such.
Nigerians were not buying new cars because Nigerians, like millions of other Africans, just couldn’t pay the total cost of a new car upfront. Now, if you looked at the statistic proving this fact, you might be so surprised that you might think that some mischief-maker conjured the numbers to engage in grand racial disparagement.
According to findings by the research company Modor Intelligence, less than one percent of global car sales happens in Africa. In 2019, for instance, the number of new cars sold into the United States alone was 17 million. But right here in Africa, with a population of more than a billion, all the brand-new cars bought across the continent were not as many as a million.
So, Ladi Delano and Jide Odunsi, two Nigerian businessmen who were previously in healthcare and media businesses, gave the problem some thought. They figured: Why not check out what tech-enabled enterprise could be started to lift whatever obscene barricade might be lying in the way of Africans enjoying that hypnotic pleasure of a new car smell.
Delano said people weren’t buying cars “because there’s no access to finance.” What’s “driving mobility” in such large economies as the UK and the US, he said to TechCrunch, is that “you have financing in most parts of the developed world when you try to buy a car.”
So, Moove launched out with what has now become a widely applauded business model. It would help Africans buy new cars, starting with “mobility entrepreneurs” aka ride-hailing drivers, aka Uber drivers.
Moove became Uber’s official vehicle finance and supply partner in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moove would provide financing to drivers at a rate much lower than what the banks would offer. The loans would run for up to five years, the weekly repayments directly deducted from the drivers’ income, which would be tracked directly on the Moove app.
As evidence of what a no-brainer of an idea it is, Moove, which officially opened for business in June 2020, blasted out of the gate, fuelled with a $5.5 million seed round. One of its early-stage investors is the storied Iyin Aboyeji, co-founder of Flutterwave — the fintech unicorn — and Venture Africa — a PanAfrican investment firm.
By August 2021, Moove had raised an additional $23 million in series A, and a $40 million in debt financing. Today, Moove, propelled by its partnership with Uber, has expanded beyond Lagos into Accra, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. It has promised to keep driving deeper into the continent.
But was I thinking of any of Moove’s breathless continental race 16 days ago before I gingerly, and regretfully, placed myself inside the dirtiest Uber in the world? No.
In fact, I was dressed to the nines in a dark blue native suit, standing erect in shiny black shoes, looking forward to a night of corporate hobnobbing. It might have been said by a few onlookers that I looked like a million dollars and, as you might have expected of anyone who looked like a million dollars, the original plan was for me to arrive at wherever I was headed in… what do they say again… style.
But then again, thanks to a chain of Friday-evening traffic jams across Lagos, rides were scarce and beggars couldn’t be choosers, especially when the beggars in question had abandoned all thought of driving themselves due to the aforementioned devitalising traffic jams.
Thirty minutes later after I ordered the ride, a 2006 Toyota Avensis rolled to a stop in front of me and the thing might have been washed in filth.
Inside it, a black plastic bag, glistening with fried oil, laid squeezed up by the driver’s armrest. Besides, there was tattered carpeting, obviously unwashed grey upholstery, and dust. Thank goodness for facemasks.
This ride was a shame because I had always associated Uber with steady quality — courteous drivers, washed cars, timely arrivals. To find myself in the Upside Down of the Uber universe was totally disorienting. It forced me to now value the new clean cars in the Uber fleet and how they’ve come to be.
So, I aborted my sad Uber trip midway, because no one should ever have to pay for his own mistreatment.
I called another Uber. In about 10 minutes, it found me. It was a 2015 Toyota Corolla. Near spotless inside and out. “Nice car,” I said to the driver.
“Oh, thank you,” he said.
I settled inside. Snapped a couple of selfies for the WhatsApp status. “Is this your personal car?” I said.
The driver, a young thirty-something man, shook his head slowly. “Um, well,” he said. “It’s a drive to own.”
“Drive to own! Nice… from Uber?”
“No. There’s this company called Moove.”
“Moove. I know Moove. Interesting.”
“You mind telling me how much you got it?”
“For real? How long do you have to pay for it?”
“I chose three years.”
“Wow. That’s bold!”
This man would have to work his head off to pay back the N5.2 million in three years but he’s an entrepreneur, isn’t he? An entrepreneur is nothing if not a person with a plan.
Here’s the thing, though: it is one thing to write, or read, about new start-ups that are making audacious moves. It is another thing to feel the impact of such start-ups out there in real life.
Sixteen days ago, after two back-to-back yet wildly disparate car rides on the same ride-sharing app, I couldn’t have felt the Moove pioneering agenda harder than I did.