Photograph — www.pickmeup.ng

Within the last 5 years, Nigeria has experienced a shift from the use of regular taxis to tech-serviced taxis. The unprecedented growth in smart technology has encouraged the entry of ride-hailing startups like Uber, Maxng, Gokada and Bolt into the Nigerian Market.

While Uber and Bolt are among the top ride-hailing services which launched in megacities like Lagos and Abuja, Nigerian-owned ride-hailing app, Pickmeup, is servicing the underserved cities across the country. “ Before we launched into the major cities, we decided to test the smaller cities,” said Michael Okaredje, Co-Founder and CEO of Pickmeup Technologies in an interview with Ventures Africa. “These cities are largely unserviced. There was no Uber or Bolt as at when we launched in Nigeria’s smaller markets,” Okaredje added.

Pickmeup is a transport technology platform that allows you to book a safe and affordable ride in minutes, using your smartphone. The platform uses GPS technologies to connect passengers to drivers. It launched in Warri, Delta State, in November 2017, with its basic app. But by 2019, it carried out a technology upgrade and relaunched to its current app due to increased user adoption. By 2021 it will launch a super app that will allow “users to be able to commute, eat, deliver packages, socialize and pay for basic essentials, all in one app,” Okaredje said. 

Pickmeup aims to serve Nigeria’s underserved cities with access to affordable modern taxi rides while creating more employment. So far, the app has gained momentum in 8 more Nigerian cities namely Port Harcourt, Asaba, Benin City, Owerri, Uyo, Akwa, Akure and Calabar. 

Although it has offices in Lagos and Abuja, the startup has not fully launched in these top Nigerian cities. “We were supposed to have launched in Lagos but with the introduction of license permit which is still under negotiation with the Lagos state government and the COVID-19 situation, we have not launched,” Okaredje further stated.

As of 2017, the cities were the startup has its presence were largely unserved by ride-hailing companies. But Pickmeup has gained over 50,000+ users who rely on its app to move around every day. “We have also provided jobs for over 3000 active drivers and we have done over 100,000 happy rides,” Okaredje said.

Unemployment and underemployment are key economic problems in Nigeria. According to recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s unemployment rate as of the second quarter of 2020 stood at 27.1 percent. This means that about  21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians remain unemployed. 

As of 2015, Nigeria ranked as the world’s 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. In 2019, people between the ages of 15-65 years accounted for its active labour force. This is about 53.62 percent of its over 200 million population.

In light of this, a lot of youth have ventured into entrepreneurship and triggered a rise in private owned businesses across the country. Pickmeup is one of many creating “ a marketplace that allows people to earn on their own terms” while meeting the transport needs of many Nigerians.

“We are planning to expand into the entire African continent. From Nigeria, we are expanding to Kenya then to other parts of the continent. Now, Pickmeup was incorporated in San Francisco. So, outside expansion into some African countries, there is a plan to expand into San Francisco. San Francisco, New York and London are on our radar for Q4, 2021,” Okaredje explained.

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