Uber launches boat service in Lagos

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A crew member from UberBOAT steers a boat in the Adriatic sea near the island of Solta, Croatia, June 30, 2017. Antonio Bronic/REUTERS - RC16A3589210

Global ride-hailing firm Uber, on Friday, launched a pilot test of a boat service in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos to attract commuters seeking to avoid the city’s notoriously congested roads.

A crew member from UberBOAT steers a boat in the Adriatic sea near the island of Solta, Croatia, June 30, 2017. Antonio Bronic/REUTERS – RC16A3589210

Uber’s chief business officer in June said the company planned to launch the service to carry some of the city’s 20 million people around town. Lagos is built on a lagoon.

The waterway service, UberBOAT, is operated in partnership with local boat operator Texas Connection Ferries and the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), said the ride-hailing firm.

“This initiative is aimed at providing commuters with an easy and affordable way to get in and out of the city’s business districts,” Uber said in a statement.

The pilot phase will operate on weekdays from 0700 GMT to 1600 GMT on a fixed route between two locations in the city.

Passengers will be charged a flat fare of 500 naira ($1.39) per trip, compared with about 300 naira by minibus for a similar journey in the commercial hub of the West African country where most people live on less than $2 a day.

At a press conference on Friday, Uber officials said there would be four trips a day, carrying up to 35 people on a boat, during the two-week pilot.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos state, said the Uber boat service, and the use of waterways in general, were part of a raft of initiatives aimed at easing congestion that include a program of road repairs.

“We want ferries that carry 60 to 80 people,” he said, referring to his hopes for the future use of waterways, on Thursday at a forum with businesses.

The combination of population growth and congestion has made Nigeria, and more broadly West Africa, attractive to foreign transport companies.

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