Hundreds of motorcycle riders and workers of hailing app SafeBoda are set to lose jobs by the end of the month after the firm announced its exit from the Kenyan market, coming just two years after it entered the country.
In a notice on Monday, the Uganda-based tech startup said it will suspend its ride services from November 27, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had weighed heavily on its operations.
“While Nairobi is seeing some economic recovery from Covid-19, boda transportation has been hit hard. This has meant our business cannot sustainably operate in this environment and, unfortunately, the timeline for a full recovery is not certain,” read part of the statement.
SafeBoda is a community of entrepreneurs and bodaboda riders built to revolutionise transportation, payments, and on-demand services in Africa’s cities.
The firm’s exit is expected to hit hard its community of users and business value chain which extends to more than 4,000 riders in Nairobi.
At the same time, the firm has encouraged users to exhaust wallet balances before November 27 by taking rides and sending packages.
The company will, however, offer refunds to customers with balances beyond the exit day.
In spite of its exit from Kenya, SafeBoda is expected to retain the rest of its continental footprint as it seeks to intensify its presence in other markets, including Uganda and Nigeria.
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta, during a social hall meeting with boda-boda riders, said the industry was emerging as one of the biggest drivers of the economy, with operators generating Sh980 million a day.
The Head of State was witnessing the signing of a major partnership between the Boda Boda Association of Kenya, Rubis Energy, the Capital Markets Authority, and Nabo Capital, which saw the birth of an investment scheme.
He termed the boda-boda sub-sector a sleeping giant that needs to be awakened.
“You have become a silent economic miracle in our midst and that is why I think this scheme came at the right time,” he said.
Full of potential
He described the sector as full of potential that can be of great importance if it puts mechanisms into use of its daily collection.
“With an average daily earning of Sh700, the sector’s annual earnings are estimated at Sh357 billion. Every single day, boda-boda operators collect Sh980 million,'' said President Kenyatta.
He wondered why the riders are always complaining of being broke all the time yet the sector accumulates over Sh27 billion on a monthly basis.
“Every year, the boda-boda industry collects Sh357 billion; if you collect almost Sh1 billion a day, why does every boda-boda rider cry of hard economic times?” he asked.
According to the President, the sector supports, directly or indirectly, 5.2 million Kenyans which accounts for 10 per cent of the population. “This means that one in every 10 Kenyans makes his livelihood because of the business that you do.”