By Dipo Olowookere
Tech giant, Google, has invested in SafeBoda to enable the company to scale its transportation-led app to offer new payment and financial services solutions for its expanding set of customers, passengers, drivers and merchants.
Google made the investment, the first in the series, through its Africa Investment Fund launched by the CEO of Google and Alphabet, Mr Sundar Pichai, at Google for Africa in October.
SafeBoda is a venture-backed firm with investors like GoVentures (GoJek), Allianz X, Unbound, Beenext and Justin Kan.
SafeBoda app was launched in 2017 to connect passengers to their community of safer and trusted drivers and has grown to serve over one million customers, expanding its transportation-led super app offering rides, parcel delivery, food and shop, payments, savings and other financial services.
The company plans to drive its growth in Uganda and Nigeria, which is why the investment from Google is regarded as timely.
“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,” one of the co-founders, Mr Ricky Rapa Thomson, 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,” Nitin Gajria, Managing Director for Google in Africa, added.
The Africa Investment Fund is part of a broader plan to invest $1 billion over 5 years to support digital transformation in Africa. Through this fund, Google will invest $50 million in startups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build impactful products for their communities.
Currently, Africa is home to 700,000 developers and venture capital funding for startups has decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, with a record $4 billion in equity funding raised in 2021, according to Partech Ventures Africa.
Digital startups in Africa are driving innovation in fast-growing sectors, including fintech, healthtech, media and entertainment, e-commerce, e-mobility, and e-logistics, contributing to Africa’s growing Internet gross domestic product (iGDP) — defined as the Internet’s contribution to the GDP.
Maritime Truck Owners Threaten Strike Over Arrests by Customs
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) has threatened to down tools nationwide to protest the incessant arrest and detention of its members by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
In a letter to the Comptroller General of Customs, Mr Hameed Ali, the President of AMATO, Mr Remi Ogungbemi, warned that if all detained trucks are not released immediately, the group will have no other choice than withdraw its services nationwide.
Mr Ogungbemi also said that the seizure and possible auction of their trucks is causing untold hardship on truck owners, adding that for a long time, truckers have been passing through this injustice in the hands of the Customs.
“We have been passing through this injustice in the hands of Nigeria Customs Service as a result of the dishonest declaration of actual goods that importers and their collaborating agents are having in their containers.
“Truckers are just commercial transporters of goods. We are only invited by the agents to come and carry goods to and from the ports after Customs must have examined and approved the release of goods in containers to importers and agents.
“But unfortunately, after loading, the containers are duly examined and released by Customs on our trucks, they will waylay the trucks on the road, seize and detain our trucks in their yard together with containers with question marks.
“Does Customs arrest ships that do bring illicit goods to Nigeria for complicity? Does Customs seal the terminal that receives contraband and dangerous consignments in their yards for complicity in storing illicit consignments?
“Are commercial trucks involved in the physical examination of goods in the ports together with Customs, police, DSS, NDLEA, and others to see what the containers are carrying?
“Does it sound just for Customs officers and other government agencies that jointly examined and approved the exit of contraband and other dangerous goods in the ports to be holding truckers responsible for their fault and negligence?
“Is it the truckers that are short paying the government import duty on goods or the importers and their agents?
“If the answer is no, we are calling on the Nigeria Customs Service to release all our trucks detained in their yard or withdraw our service nationwide in protest against the unjust seizure of our trucks.
“Our members are facing agonizing economic hardships. Their source of livelihood is being seized by the Nigeria Customs for the offence committed by importers and their dubious collaborating agents,” the letter read.
OYSROMA Moves to Ease Movement of Traffic
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Oyo State Road Maintenance Agency (OYSROMA) has commenced the rehabilitation of roads in the state to ease the movement of traffic.
The chairman of the agency, Mr Ogunlade Busoye Soladoye, said the roads to receive facelift include Molete-Fire-Challenge roads, Mokola-Dugbe and the Femi Johnson Junction along Oke-Ado Road, among others.
In a statement on Monday, it was stated that it is part of the Operation Zero Potholes initiative of Governor Seyi Makinde.
When completed, he said, the rehabilitation of the roads as well as the desilting of drainages across the Ibadan metropolis and its environs, would create a better environment for the populace.
While speaking after visiting some of the roads to be transformed by OYSROMA, Mr Soladoye said “This is one of our feedback mechanisms concerning the deplorable condition of roads during the rainy season.”
He also implored the residents to desist from the act of dumping refuse on waterways, as the agency has started clearing drainages across the state, promising that the agency will live up to its mandate.
Lagos Red Line Rail Project Nears Completion
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Lagos State Government has assured residents that the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT), also known as the red line project, would be completed soon.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr Gboyega Akosile, said the transport infrastructure being developed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) will have the capacity to transport over 500,000 passengers daily when it becomes operational in the first quarter of next year.
The Lagos red line rail will traverse on the standard gauge from Agbado to Oyingbo, in the first phase, while terminating at Iddo in the second phase. It has eight stations and it is expected to reduce travel by over two hours.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, joined on the project tour by the Deputy Governor, Mr Obafemi Hamzat, and members of the cabinet, first stopped at the multi-level Agege Terminal, where he inspected completion work on the facility.
The Agege Red Line terminal shares the same yard with Babatunde Raji Fashola Station built by the federal government but stands about 300 metres apart.
The Governor also inspected the staff quarters built by the Lagos Government for the railway workers in employment by the federal government.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, thereafter, led the team to the iconic Ikeja Station of the Red Line, where 80 per cent of the civil work had been complete where he checked the progress of the overpass being constructed on the Awolowo Way axis to ensure non-interference of vehicular movement on the rail passageway.
The Governor stopped at Mushin terminal, to inspect the station and overpass, which stretches between Kayode and Ogunmokun streets, being developed there, before proceeding to Yaba and Oyingbo stations.
After the exercise that lasted for four hours, Mr Sanwo-Olu expressed satisfaction on the quality of the work done, disclosing that most of the difficult tasks had been completed.
The entire construction, the Governor said, has moved into the finishing phase in which precast beams and other concrete fittings are being coupled to the constructed structures.
He said: “The Red Line is a project conceived and started by our Government, which will be delivered in the lifetime of this administration. We have given our commitment to ensure the project is completed by the end of this year as promised. This is our fourth inspection trip on this project within the year alone and each time we come, there is significant progress that the contractor achieves along the rail corridor.
“Along the rail corridor, there is massive regeneration that is taking place and we have paid an extensive amount in terms of compensation, far more than anyone else, for those affected by the construction activities. That is why we don’t have problems with members of the communities on this corridor. After inspecting the Agege station, we went on to check the Ikeja terminal, which happens to be the iconic station of the Red Line. Its size is almost about the size of three football fields together.
“As we have seen, all the stations inspected are at the roof level, moving into the completion stage. The civil work has been completed, it’s just the finishing job we are doing at the moment. All the activities are on schedule and we are hoping the best entire project will be completed by the end of the year. There are places that were particularly challenging for the contractor to do drilling due to high vehicular density. All the challenges have been overcome; what is left is concrete in-situ and placing of precast beams.”
Mr Sanwo-Olu said the construction work on the overpasses was at different stages of completion but assured that all work would be done by December.
He said the work on the bridge on Awolowo Way onto Agege Motor Road and inward Mongoro Bus Stop remained on track and would finish by the end of October.
Mr Sanwo-Olu said the Mushin overpass, which crosses from Kayode Street at Ikorodu Road to Agege Motor Road in Mushin, and the one at Yaba from Tejuosho exiting onto Murtala Muhammed Road would be completed by November.
To eliminate human interference with the rail corridor, the Governor said the rail passageway would be walled off the residential areas. This, he said, would also prevent encroachment and unapproved commercial activities around the corridor.
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