Share Ride Shows Potential in Liberia As Metro Leads Market

Dogba Norris, General Manager of Metro Ride Inc., is confident about the prospects of Liberia’s share ride industry

Monrovia – Share ride is expanding in two major cities in Liberia, showing prospects for both owners of vehicles and its sole platform operator in what many have described as an emerging market.

Report By Alpha Daffae Senkpeni / [email protected]

The share ride business module has successfully taken off in several African countries including Kenya, South Africa and Ghana.  According to Goldman Sachs, the sector would be worth about US$285 billion globally by 2030. In 2018, it was estimated that the global market was worth US$108 billion.

In Liberia, Metro Reliable Ride Inc. launched its taxi mobile app on September 29 and has now recorded 2 million downloads by users in the country and the United State.

It has a huge prospect of becoming a multi million sector, according to the firm’s general manager.

The firm is a 100 percent Liberian own tech startup aiming to widen the sector in the West African nation by stepping in the early footprints of international industry giants like American firm Uber and China’s Didi.

Metro is a subsidiary of transport company, ORAGON Group – a major player in Liberia’s transport and tours industry with a US$20 million investment. Oregon has remained present in the sector for more than a decade.

Metro, which is a Liberian tech firm, says it is following the international ride sharing business module but has, at the same time, invented unique features that make its service more user friendly for the Liberian market.

For example, unlike countries where commuters make payments via credit and debit cards  or other electronic means, Metro users pay in cash or by mobile money.

Dogba Norris, General Manager of Metro Ride, clarifies that his firm is not a taxi company competing with traditional taxi drivers, but rather a platform that connects private vehicle owners to commuters.

Metro Ride launched its mobile app in September 2018 and has recorded 2 million downloads so far

“We have the partnership that allows people who have vehicles to partner with Metro Ride and they can use their vehicle to make an income by serving the requests of those who need to commute in the city,” he says.

“Instead of fighting for cabs on the street, the app helps you to commute easily and it cost you less and reduces the hustle.”

The sector is another opening for government to generate revenue and a means to create income for owners of private vehicles.

However, it is new to Liberians and would require a lot  to expand across major cities, and Metro says it is “slowly and steadily” shifting the market and grabbing attention. 

“We knew it was going to be a challenge to make a breakthrough; we anticipated the challenge and Liberians are starting to use the application and with the improvement of the internet service in the country, more people are becoming to sign up,” Norris said.

The firm also has an ambition of moving in the sub region and expand its investments.

“Instead of having only companies from Ghana and Nigeria coming into Liberia, we are hoping to take Metro ride outside Liberia,” said Norris, who has a strong background in internet technology.

For now, the firm’s objective is to reduce the cost of a comfortable ride for urban commuters in Liberia based on variety of needs and at the same time offer mutual benefits for vehicle owners.

“These partners work at their own will and pleasure, so from time to time they have the urge to delve in the market and make few bulks, and we have the confidence that the market will grow in 2019,” he said.

“Once we expand and the sector grows, we would attract others to this sector and that means we have opened up an all new sector for the economy.

“We see ourselves as the vanguard for this sector and within the next six months we will be a million dollar company.”

Like other international share ride firms, Metro enters a contract with its partner, gives them access to the system, which then allows the owner of the vehicle to receive requests from commuters.

As part of the standard, vehicles accepted for the partnership has to be at least a 2010 built, be roadworthy based on all standards of the vehicle and traffic regulations – including insurance and registration.

Also, the contract binds a partner to keep the vehicle in a conducive condition and serve passengers comfortably.

A partner then remits 30 percent of fares to the tech company for the use of its platform.

The firm says it is still making modifications to the platform, which now offers three categories of ride – economic, standard and premium cars.

The based fare for an economic class is US$3.00, but there are expectations it might reduce when more vehicles sign up to the platform.

Onesimus Kiadii is a teaching assistant at the University of Liberia, and has signed up as a partner. He drives from Paynesville to Capitol Hill almost every day.

On his way to town, Kiadii usually gets at least a request from a passenger using the Metro Ride App, he picks the person up and they share his ride.

On an average, he makes a minimum of US$40 a day. He says it’s an extra income for him, which helps him cover some petroleum cost.

“As a partner and owner of a car it impacts my income and I don’t think traditional taxi drivers make that much on an average during the day… some of the transactions are just for 30 minutes and I get paid,” he said.

“I think it’s beneficiary to car owners and allows us to make some money from the car instead of just spending money on the car.”

Kiadii is also optimistic that the share ride industry has a “substantial future” in Liberia although “new to the tradition of people standing along the road to get a cab”. 

“I think this sector will grow in Liberia and as soon people start to understand how reliable this service is the sector will grow and many private car owners can move in which is very good,” he says.

As the share ride module makes significant steps into Liberia’s most populated commercial cities, its main challenge remains swaying commuters from the traditional mode of commuting.

In Liberia, many commuters are accustomed to waiting along the road for a taxi cab.

But Norris says this is about change.

“When people get the concept of share ride and understand that there’s an opportunity right at their doors and the platform start to serve in a small way as it is doing now, reliably serve the needs of those needing transport, we believe over time there will be an amplifying effect and we believe that as time goes by people will see the opportunities we are offering and people will take advantage of it,” he says.