Government can Enable the Transport Industry with Technology- Edward Essien

Edward Essien CEO Taxi

An increasing number of Taxi hailing companies have launched their services in Nigeria. It must, however, be pointed out that, these are mostly foreign-owned companies. The big question, though, is “why has it been difficult for those owned by Nigerians to survive?

I was, recently, with Edward Essien, Co-Founder, Holla Taxi and he bared his mind on how technology can improve Nigeria’s transport and the logistics industry in general.

On why he decided to go into the transport business in Nigeria, he stated that there are about 17 million people that live in Lagos State alone, for instance, and when compared to the number of cars available in Lagos, that gives a ratio of about one car to about 1,200 people. He emphasized that what geared him into starting a car-hailing business was his desire to move people around because they have to move.

He noted that there were lots of cars that are usually parked, sitting idle, but which can be used. “A lot of cars were sitting down idle, and we said, okay, why don’t you convert your car into a profit Centre, rather than let it sit down there after doing the traffic and sitting in the office when you can actually make money from that”, he noted. By applying this model, he stated, Nigerians earn more money with the assets that they have, which often die as a result wear and tear on the roads.

Edward is of the view that whether we get the infrastructures right or not, technology can still be used to improve the transportation business. “Whether we like it or not, people transport themselves on daily basis”, he reiterated. He stated that the platform is easy to access and use, even, by those using tricycles and motorcycles.

On the issue of young Startups finding it difficult to break into the industry in Nigeria, Edward is of the opinion that, this is so because, most inventors that they talk to, are usually only interested in using Uber standards as a yardstick and these Startups are not in any way near that.

On the doubts in the mind of people as to the prospects for sustainability in the industry in the face of low purchasing power, Edward thinks that this might not be so in the long run. Also responding to a question on whether Nigeria should emulate China, which tries to block foreign rivals of Chinese businesses in that country, in order to support their own, Edward thinks that it may not be necessary for Nigeria to do so. “What the government should do, he reiterated, is to create enablers for the operators in the industry, such as involving the Bank of Industry in arranging for hire purchase and ownership schemes for the operators. This way, he stressed, more drivers are employed as jobs are being created.

Edward is of the view that, if you have a sustainable model that can run, while minimizing your cost of operations, you will still have a share of the market, when he spoke of how large the opportunities available in the industry is. Reacting to the fact that there is the concentration of Taxi hailing companies in Lagos, Edward opined that, other States are now being penetrated.

He stated that people are quite interested in what the industry is doing in Nigeria and if other States are well mapped, the business can be done there successfully too. He stated that he looks forward to a time, when the government will hands off certain businesses, such as the transport business, or collaborate with the private sector. Edward concluded by saying that, he believes that, in five years time, if we have the right structure in place, the transport business will be revolutionized.

Written by Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata

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