Having nearly perfected the business of moving people around on the continent, Uber is set to diversify the core of its business in sub Saharan Africa with the introduction of UberEverything, a division of the company with ambitious plans to plug its existing drivers network into the on-demand economy and provide services such as product and food delivery and courier services.
“The first market will probably be South Africa and we are pushing to make that happen before the end of the year,” said Alon Lits, Uber’s general manager for sub-Saharan Africa.
‘Everything’ is Uber’s strategy to build on its logistics infrastructure in the cities it operates. Once the company is at scale in a city with ride passengers it can develop other services such as UberRush, a personal courier service or food delivery with UberEats,(available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York) . “Everything we’re building is on top of a platform that already exists,” Jason Droege, head of the UberEverything division, told the Los Angeles Times last month.
With the rising popularity and adoption of e-commerce shopping and on-demand services among a growing African middle-class who live on-the-go and increasingly value convenience, UberEverything could be a hit.
Logistics have been a big challenge for e-commerce companies in African larger cities, some of which have poor road networks and other infrastructure challenges. Major local players like Konga in Nigeria and African Internet Group’s Jumia and sister company Hellofood have had to invest heavily in developing their own logistics platform to get round the weak local infrastructure.
“If things go well in South Africa, there’s no reason why we won’t bring UberEverything to more markets.” One of such markets will likely be Lagos, which Lits says Uber remains “bullish” about despite Nigeria’s struggling economy. Home to 20 million people, Lagos’ infamous traffic jams and haphazard address system make it difficult—and expensive—for delivery services to operate but could represent a big opportunity for UberEverything’s goal of providing efficient logistics using its existing drivers network.
Aided by its recent $3.5 billion funding—its single biggest investment ever— from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Uber expanded to Kampala and Accra in the last week and Lits says a launch in Dar es Salaam is imminent. This follows plans to spend $250 million on growing its market across North Africa and the Middle East.
But Uber’s operations in Africa have not been without hitches. In Cairo and Nairobi, Uber drivers have been targets of protests and, in some cases, violent attacks. In South Africa, the company was forced to provide drivers with emergency numbers and also partner with a local private security firm.