As cinema-goers at Adeniran Ogunsanya Mall in Lagos exit after watching their favourite movies, they are usually met outside by shouts of ‘Oga Taxi’, ‘Oga where you dey go?’.
However, the faces of the taxi drivers are written in disappointment when a posh and clean Toyota Camry stops to pick up the passengers they unsuccessfully tried to hail.
This is the plight of taxi drivers who despite being familiar with the nooks and crannies of Lagos have been hard-hit by the entry of ride-hailing services like Uber and Bolt.
Of course, they were not happy but then they couldn’t do anything about it as they watched in scorn as young people and anyone who could operate a smartphone ignored them to hail a car.
Why Riders Abandoned Lagos Taxi Drivers?
When Uber arrived in Nigeria in 2014, it brought with it technology, style, convenience and an agreeable pricing or billing system.
In technology, they had a smartphone app, in style, they signed-on drivers with clean and neat cars to ferry riders around Lagos; in convenience, riders could request an Uber anytime, anywhere, and in agreeable price, they didn’t charge based on what they think is the price but based on technology.
The complete opposite was the case with taxi drivers. The drivers were well-advanced in age but undoubtedly knew Lagos routes like the back of their palms. In addition to this, they drove rickety, dirty and smelly cars while charging their riders indiscriminately.
For many Lagosians especially young people, knowing the routes was not good enough.
They wanted an experience that would make the girl they are trying to woo not see them as a broke guy. Boarding some of these yellow taxis gave the impression of being broke.
This is not the case with hailing an Uber. Even if the guy is not mobile, he can still afford an Uber. Same for when you have a business meeting or a job interview, you hail an Uber.
This was how Lagos taxi drivers lost young people and many of their regular customers or riders who own a smartphone to request a ride.
Lagos Taxi Drivers Have Now Embraced Technology
As they say, it is better late than never. The Lagos taxi drivers appear to have finally embraced technology.
The umbrella association of taxi drivers in Lagos, Yellow Taxi/Cab Drivers Association recently launched a ride-hailing service called EkoCab to rival Uber and Bolt.
This comes weeks after the Lagos State Government banned okada in the state and the brickbat it had with the management of Uber and Bolt.
The government said that the ride-hailing services were not licensed to operate in Lagos and declared them persona non-grata.
Regardless both of them are still operating as they await the government’s next line of action.
Hence, you can deduce that the taxi association leveraged on these seeming differences Uber and Bolt are having with LASG to launch EkoCab.
In his remarks, the General Secretary of the Lagos State Yellow Taxi Drivers & EkoCab Association, Mr. Taiwo Omolekan thanked the Lagos State Government for their consistent support towards the realisation of the EkoCab App and its take-off scheduled for March 17, 2020.
Omolekan maintained that the launch would enable the Association bridge the gap created by the Okada/Tricycle restrictions in certain parts of the State while operators will observe strict adherence to the provisions of the State Traffic Law to ensure better service delivery.
Is EkoCab Enough to attract riders to Lagos Taxi Cabs?
Except we are deceiving ourselves, EkoCab is not enough to attract riders to Lagos Taxis because nothing has really changed besides the convenience of hailing a cab from anywhere as well as the pricing.
The cabs are still shaky, dirty and unsteady.
In fact, reviews on the app on the Google Play Store shows that EkoCab was rushed and no painstaking efforts were invested in developing the app.
As such Uber, Taxify and perhaps OCar do not need to lose sleep over EkoCab.
EkoCab is a product of a confused Lagos Taxi Association trying to make a grand return with the backing of the Lagos State Government but totally lacks the capacity or capabilities to do so.
There is nothing wrong with these taxi association partnering with Uber or Bolt to sign on their cabs and train the drivers on how to use the app.
For now, Uber and Bolt still own the largest share of the ride-hailing business in Lagos.
The Lagos Taxi drivers association with their EkoCab should return to the drawing board because they have a long way to go if they want Lagosians to take then serious.