Google announces investment in Safeboda, to drive expansion in Nigeria, Uganda

David Afolayan
SafeBoda, an Ugandan-based bike-hailing startup might be kickstarting its Nigerian operations soon with a tentative second launch in Ibadan.

Google has announced its first investment from the Africa Investment Fund which was launched by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, at Google for Africa in October. The undisclosed sum was invested in Ugandan bike-hailing startup, Safeboda.

Safeboda is a venture-backed company with investors that include GoVentures (GoJek), Allianz X, Unbound, Beenext and Justin Kan. Google said that the investment will help drive SafeBoda’s growth in Uganda and Nigeria, scaling its transportation-led app to offer new payment and financial services solutions for its expanding set of customers: passengers, drivers and merchants.

Speaking on the investment, Ricky Rapa Thomson, one of the co-founders said:

“SafeBoda welcomes Google to their community and are excited to continue to drive innovation in informal transportation and payments in the Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi driver in East Africa) or okada (West Africa) industry. As a former Boda driver in Kampala, I know that we are the lifeblood of Africa’s cities and we power economic development. SafeBoda is thrilled that leading global companies such as Google see the importance of backing start-ups working towards these goals.”

SafeBoda app was launched in 2017 to connect passengers to their community of safer and trusted drivers and since then SafeBoda has grown to serve over 1 million customers, expanding its transportation-led super app offering rides, parcel delivery, food and shop, payments, savings and other financial services.

The Africa Investment Fund is part of a broader plan by Google to invest $1 billion over 5 years to support digital transformation in Africa. The tech giant will invest $50M in selected startups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build impactful products for their communities.

Google announces $1bn fund to support digital transformation in Africa over 5 years
Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet Inc., Sundar Pichai

To date, Google has trained over 6 million people across 25 African countries, with over 60% of participants experiencing growth in their career and/or business as a result. Google has also supported more than 50 nonprofits across Africa with over $16million of investment and enabled hundreds of millions of Africans to access internet services for the first time through Android.

Speaking on the announcement, Nitin Gajria, Managing Director for Google in Africa said that the company is thrilled to dole out its first investment. He said:

“I am thrilled about our first investment from the $50M Africa Investment Fund that we announced two months ago. This is part of our ongoing commitment to tech startups in Africa. I am of the firm belief that no one is better placed to solve Africa’s biggest problems than Africa’s young developers and entrepreneurs. We look forward to announcing subsequent investments in other startups.”

Safeboda has its operations in Uganda and in Ibadan, Nigeria. The bike-hailing startup announced last year that it had hit a milestone of 100,000 rides in Nigeria. The achievement comes just 3 months after the startup debuted its operations in Ibadan. It also announced that it was halting operations in Kenya from 27th November 2020.

Safeboda

SafeBoda’s Kenya exit comes after two years of being operational in the country. The ride-hailing startup had launched in the East African country in 2018, onboarding over 4,000 Bodas and completing millions of rides.


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