The Ekiti State government has partnered with an on-demand mobility startup, Metro Africa Xpress (MAX) to digitise operations of commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke). The startup will deploy a new technology solution to effect this reform. Considering the peculiarities of African roads, and the prevalence of traffic in its major cities, the Okada has become one of the most popular means of transportation. This has attracted thousands of youth to the sector across major countries.
However, several of these operators are unlicensed and always manage to escape the eyes of the law when disobeying traffic rules, driving with unsafe vehicles, or committing crimes.
The Ekiti state government says it wants to tackle these safety and security issues by formalising the largely informal and decentralised sector. It has launched the Ekiti State Mobility Transformation Project (ESMOT) to deliver safety, security, insurance, vehicle financing, and other essential support services to transport operators
Also, with the MAX.ng partnership, the startup’s Metrogov platform will provide identity management, remote monitoring, crime prevention, digital payments, and financial audit solutions.
MAX.ng’s Metrogov will provide digital identities for drivers, and a platform to register and track vehicles. Okada drivers would be trained and licenced, and once registered, they would gain access to health insurance, life insurance, and vehicle financing.
The platform will also provide data to the state government to support revenue collection to drive infrastructure development in the State. This move bears similar hallmarks to a previous move by the government of Uganda to place commercial motorcycles (called Boda Bodas in East Africa ) and taxi operators under e-hailing companies like Safeboda, Uber, or Bolt.
The regulations were a bit more strict and sought to clean up informal motorcycles and parks around the city. However, this initiative was met with stiff opposition from the Mayor of Kampala who complained that traditional Boda Boda and taxi unions were not consulted before making the regulations.
While it is not certain how strict the implementation will be in Ekiti, it appears some stakeholders were carried along.
“We have engaged with relevant authorities and interest groups,” said Eleazar Olumuyiwa Ogunmilade Chairman of the Ekiti State Internal Revenue Service.
“They have expressed their commitment to the new system as they agree this would guarantee the safety of our citizens and would deliver improved services to both transport operators and commuters.”
This approach seems vastly different from the way issues of safety and security with Okadas were handled in Lagos back in January 2020. Recall that authorities in the country’s commercial hub chose to ban all operators, both digital and informal, despite a series of protests and pleas.
While it might be tempting to make a case for such a move in Lagos, its much higher population — the highest in Africa — might make it more of a challenge. Note that MAX.ng recently launched a set of electric motorbikes in Ogun as part of its new reforms.
Encouragingly, MAX.ng’s partnership with Ekiti seems to be a result of meaningfully engaging policymakers and regulators early enough as recommended by a policy expert in this piece.
“Our goal in developing the MetroGov platform is to volunteer and offer our expertise to Regulators, Governments, Public Sector partners, Transport Associations, and non-profit organizations in delivering safer transportation services to citizens,” says Adetayo Bamiduro, CEO of MAX.ng.
Ekiti initially set the ball rolling by crashing RoW charges in May 2020 and is currently in the middle of developing a knowledge economy to boost innovation and investments.
Given the current rate of developments, we are likely going to see more interesting development from the so-called land of honour and integrity.