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“Okada” Wars: How Nigeria’s Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes

First to launch was Gokada in 2018, pioneering an Uber-style system for two-wheeled transport

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"Okada" Wars: How Nigeria's Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes
ORide driver arrives on motorbike taxi to attend meeting at company headquaters, Ikeja in Lagos, on August 19, 2019. - A growing number of ride hailing services have stepped into the chaos -- bringing order to the "okada" motorbike taxis that have long whizzed perilously around Lagos. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Banker Yemi Adegbola used to leave his home in Lagos before 4 am each day, but would still arrive late to work because of the notorious traffic in Nigeria’s biggest city.

Now, he says he has “dumped his car” for one of a raft of new motorbike ride-hailing apps that developers hope can speed up journeys for the roughly 20 million residents of the economic capital. 

For years, the jams — known locally as “go-slows” — have been a nightmare for Lagosians. 

Potholed roads, reckless driving and too many cars have helped turn the daily commute into an ordeal that often lasts for hours. 

People miss appointments and business suffers as one of Africa’s largest markets grinds to a standstill.

"Okada" Wars: How Nigeria's Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes
Regular motorcycle taxis “okada” queue for passengers without helmet or kits for safety unlike Uber-style branded motorbike taxis in Lagos, on September 4, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

READ: Facebook to curb fake news using Yoruba and Igbo languages

Sensing an opportunity, a growing number of ride-hailing services have stepped into the chaos — bringing order to the “okada” motorbike taxis that have long whizzed perilously around Lagos.

First to launch was Gokada in 2018, pioneering an Uber-style system for two-wheeled transport that had already been successfully rolled out by firms elsewhere.

It has since been followed by other operators like Maxokada and ORide — and the competitors are looking to overtake each other with better technology, lower prices and more services.

‘Open market’ –

Before these startups, Lagosians in a hurry had to put their faith in the army of unregulated “okada” riders weaving hazardously through the traffic.

Often untrained and unfamiliar with the city, they were seen as dangerous and blamed by the police for a rise in petty crime.

The authorities clamped down and in 2012 banned the 100cc bikes from 475 roads and highways around the city.

This year, some 3,000 motorcycles were impounded and destroyed for violating the restrictions, police said.

The ride-hailing apps provide a striking difference. 

Their drivers are decked out in bibs and helmets in company colours, carry safety kits with them and have more powerful bikes that can make longer trips. 

ORide drivers park motorbike taxis to attend meeting at company headquarters, Ikeja in Lagos, on August 19, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Passengers are charged an Uber-style tariff, and no longer have to resort to haggling each time they hail a ride.

READ: MTN Nigeria launches mobile money transfer service

A traditional “okada” ride can cost between ₦50 and several hundred naira — depending on the distance, area and the mood of the driver.

New entrant, ORide kick-started its services in May and is looking to tap into the abundant opportunities with 3,000 trained drivers. 

The firm — part of the OPay online payment service — is looking to expand operations as part of a $50 million push and already works in six other cities in Nigeria.

“It’s an open market in which everybody has something to offer. There’s so much to cover in Nigeria,” Iniabasi Akpan, OPay country manager, told reporters. 

Unlike other players which allow users to hail a ride both online or on the streets, passengers can only pay via the OPay app, developed by Norway’s Opera Software.

The firm has comprehensive insurance that covers both riders and passengers and secures its drivers with asset financing contracts that ensure they pay back the cost of their new bikes in 18 months.

Bumps in the road –

Overall, the two-wheeler taxi market is forecast to reach $9 billion worldwide by 2021, according to India-based Tech Sci. 

But it has not been all smooth riding since the apps launched.

Accidents remain unavoidable in the confusion of Nigeria’s roads, online apps have faltered, drivers have looked to inflate fares and corrupt officials still prey on road-users. 

Gokada in May announced over $5 million in new funding and said it hoped to branch out into other forms of transport and eventually push outside Nigeria.

"Okada" Wars: How Nigeria's Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes

But last month, the firm shut down for two weeks after its chief executive, Fahim Saleh encountered some of the navigational problems when a short journey ended up taking much longer. 

The driver he ordered took 15 minutes to pick him up, admitted he wasn’t using GPS and then set off on a circuitous route to the destination.   

READ: Sierra Leone to launch National blockchain Identification system

“How could I be the CEO of Gokada, the company that pioneered motorcycle ride-hailing in Nigeria and be experiencing this?” Saleh wrote in an online post. 

“I told the pilot to pull over to the side of the road, I would hop over the median and wait for an Uber. ‘This is what it has come to,’ I thought.”

The disappointment chimed with the gripes of some Nigerian users who have complained of navigation problems while using the various apps and accuse drivers of deliberately taking longer routes to increase fares.

Firms have sought ways around the issues.

Gokada re-launched its 2.0 service with a fresh fleet of bikes after giving drivers more training and incorporating features like helmets with inbuilt mobile headsets.

ORide has a monitoring unit set up to track its drivers. 

Despite the bumps in the road, riders told reporters the apps were helping them bolster their business and offering a key lifeline.

"Okada" Wars: How Nigeria's Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes
Opay workers sit to monitor riders in the field at the company’s control room, Ikeja in Lagos, on August 30, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

“This scheme has taken many out of poverty by creating jobs,” ORide driver Johnson Onipede told reporters, sitting on his light green bike as he waited for his next ride.

Onipede said his main headache remained one familiar to all Lagosians — venal local thieves.

He said riders needed help getting small gangs of thugs, known as “agberos” or “area boys”, to stop their extortion and harassment.

“Both the government and company should help us to stop the agberos and area boys because they are making life unbearable for us.”

READ: The brain behind West Africa’s premier smart card manufacturers

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Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners

Teni emerged the biggest winner with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively

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Teni, Falz, Burna Boy win big at 2019 Headies award. See full list of winners | News Central

The 2019 Headies award, one of Nigeria’s biggest music award shows, kicked off with a red carpet at about 7 pm W.A.T with the main event starting at exactly 9 pm W.A.T at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria on Saturday, October 19, 2019.

The event featured exhilarating musical performances from some of Nigeria’s older and new age musicians who kept the audience up on their feet almost throughout the show.

Nigerian actress and TV host, Nancy Isime and rap star, Reminisce hosted the award show where over 20 awards were won by individuals that excelled in their respective categories in the year under review.

Pop sensation, Teni emerged the biggest winner at the event with 5 awards, while Falz and Burna Boy tailed right behind her with 3 and 2 respectively.

Here are the winners of the 13th edition of the Headies.

1.  BEST RECORDING OF THE YEAR (Non-voting category)

  • Adekunle Gold – Ire
  • Patoranking – Heal D World
  • Brymo – Olanrewaju
  • Teni – Uyo Meyo (Winner)
  • Burna Boy – Ye

2.      BEST POP SINGLE

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni (Winner)
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy

3.      PRODUCER OF THE YEAR

  • Phantom – ‘Ye’ b Burna Boy
  • Ozedikus – ‘Dumebi’ by Rema
  • Spellz – ‘Askamaya’ by Teni
  • Killertunes – ‘Fake Love’ by Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty and Wizkid ( Winner)
  • Kel-P Vibes – ‘Killing Dem’ by Burna Boy featuring Zlatan

4.      BEST RAP ALBUM (Non-voting)

  • ‘Moral Instruction’ – Falz (Winner)
  • ‘Crown’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon
  • ‘A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl’ – M.I Abaga
  • ‘Clone Wars, Vol. IV (These Buhari Times)’ – Show Dem Camp

5.      BEST R&B/ POP ALBUM

  • Rare – Odunsi (The Engine)
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel
  • Mayor of Lagos – Mayorkun (Winner)
  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold

6.      BEST MUSIC VIDEO

  • ‘Dangote’ (Burna Boy) – Clarence Peters(Winner)
  • ‘Available’ (Patoranking) – Clarence Peters
  • ‘Ire’ (Adekunle Gold) – Aje Films
  • ‘Talk’ (Falz) – Prodigeezy
  • ‘Jaiye’ (Ladipoe) – 88 Factor

7.      BEST R&B SINGLE

  • ‘Tipsy’ – Odunsi ft. RAYE
  • ‘Serenade’ – Funbi
  • ‘Uyo Meyo’ – Teni
  •  ‘Wishes and Butterflies’ – Wurld
  • ‘Gimme Love’ – Seyi Shay featuring Runtown (Winner)

8.      BEST COLLABO

  • ‘Like’ – Reekado Banks featuring Tiwa Savage, Fiokee
  • ‘One Ticket’ – Kiss Daniel featuring Davido
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy featuring Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Killin’ Dem’ – Burna Boy featuring Zlatan (Winner)
  • ‘Amaka’ – 2baba featuring Peruzzi

9.      BEST RAP SINGLE

  • ‘Talk’ – Falz ( Winner)
  • ‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ – Hotyce
  • ‘40ft Container’ – Ill Bliss featuring Olamide
  • ‘Sacrifice’ – Payper Corleone featuring Alpha Ojini
  •  ‘Gang Gang’ – AQ and Loose Kaynon

10.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE(MALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Tay Iwar – ‘Utero’
  • Johnny Drille – ‘Finding Efe’
  • Nonso Bassey – ‘411’
  • Funbi – ‘Serenade’
  • Wurld – ‘Wishes & Butterfly’ ( Winner)

11.  BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) (Non-voting category)

  • Good Girl LA – ‘Bless me’
  • Waje – ‘Udue’
  • Teni – ‘Uyo Meyo’ (Winner)
  • Tems – ‘Mr Rebel’
  • Falana – ‘Repeat’

12.  NEXT RATED

This category is a voting category and the award is given to the most performing and promising act in the year under review.

  • Rema (Winner)
  • Joeboy
  • Fireboy DML
  • Victor AD
  • Lyta
  • Zlatan

13.  HIP HOP WORLD REVELATION

  • Odunsi
  • Mayorkun (Winner)
  • Wurld
  • Humblesmith

15.  BEST STREET-HOP ARTISTE

  • Erigga – ‘Motivation’ 
  • Chinko Ekun – ‘Able God’ (Winner)
  • Zlatan – ‘Leg Work’
  • Barry Jhay – ‘Aiye’
  • Lyta – ‘Time’

16.  BEST ‘ALTERNATIVE’ SONG

  • ‘Cash’ – Lady Donli
  • ‘Mr Rebel’ – Tems
  • ‘Finding Efe’ – Johnny Drille ( Winner)
  • ‘Heya’ – Brymo
  • ‘Ire’ – Adekunle Gold

17.  ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • About 30 – Adekunle Gold
  • Outside – Burna Boy
  • Moral Instruction – Falz (Winner)
  • No Bad Songz – Kizz Daniel

18.  ARTISTE OF THE YEAR

  • Burna Boy (Winner)
  • Wizkid
  • Davido
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Falz

19.  SONG OF THE YEAR

  • ‘Ye’ – Burna Boy (Winner)
  • ‘Dumebi’ – Rema
  • ‘Wetin We Gain’ – Victor AD
  • ‘Fake Love’ – Starboy ft Duncan Mighty, Wizkid
  • ‘Case’ – Teni
  • ‘Leg work’ – Zlatan
  • ‘Baby’ – Joeboy
  • ‘Jealous’ – Fireboy DML

20.  HEADIES’ VIEWER’S CHOICE

  • Mr Eazi
  • Burna Boy
  • Teni (Winner)
  • Fireboy DML
  • Rema
  • Joe Boy
  • Wizkid
  • Davido

21.  BEST PERFORMER (Non-voting category)

  • Falz
  • Tiwa Savage
  • Brymo
  • Yemi Alade (Winner)
  • Adekunle Gold

22.  ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  • Crayon
  • Buju
  • Barry Jhay ( Winner)
  • Oxlade

23. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD

Paul Okoye

23.  AFRICAN ARTISTE RECOGNITION

  • Master KG – Skeleton Moves (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • Afro B – Drogba (Joanna) (IVORY COAST)
  • Sauti Sol – Melanin (KENYA)
  • King Promise – CCTV (GHANA) (WINNER)
  • DJ Maphoriza – iWalk Ye Phara (SOUTH AFRICA)

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Morocco’s renowned “Critical” cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrids

While Morocco’s cannabis cultivation is falling, the adoption of hybrids means hashish production has remained stable

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Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"

Morocco’s rugged Rif Mountains have long been renowned for their cannabis but traditional varieties are being smoked out by foreign hybrids offering higher yields and greater potency.

The local strain of marijuana, known as Beldiya, is coveted by afficionados but is gradually disappearing from the fields in the kingdom.

Nowadays in Ketama, a region in the heart of the northern Rif, a strain called “Critical” is king.

Hicham, a 27-year-old cannabis farmer, says that he grows Critical because “the new imported seeds give a much higher yield.”

Major cannabis producers decide what to plant and “hybrid plants have become a market all on their own,” said Moroccan anthropologist Khalid Mouna, who has written a thesis on the economics of Ketama’s cannabis production.

READ: Morocco’s last woman-potters hope on social media for survival

Critical, which Mouna said comes from the Netherlands, is the latest hybrid created in laboratories in Europe or North America to be introduced to Morocco.

With names like “Pakistana”, “Amnesia” and “Gorilla”, hybrids are popular for their potency and affordability. 

Critical sells for 2,500 dirhams per kilo, while Beldiya goes for up to 10,000 dirhams per kilo, local sources told reporters. 

Buoying production – 

Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"
A villager stands in a field of cannabis near the town of Ketama in Morocco’s northern Rif region on September 2, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Morocco has long been a leading producer and exporter of hashish — refined cannabis resin — even though the production, sale and consumption of drugs is illegal in the country.

READ: Sand Miners threaten Morocco’s coastline

A quarter of hashish seizures worldwide originated from Morocco between 2013 and 2017, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

While Morocco’s cannabis cultivation is falling, the adoption of hybrids means hashish production has remained stable.

In 2003, 134,000 hectares were under cannabis cultivation, falling to 47,500 hectares by 2011 under a large official reconversion programme, according to a 2015 study by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT).

But modern hybrid strains produce five to 10 kilos (11 to 22 pounds) of hashish per quintal, a traditional unit of weight equivalent to 100 kilos, compared to a single kilo for kif, as local cannabis is known.

“The substitution of hybrids for kif might explain why the production of Moroccan hashish has barely decreased,” the study said.

Livelihood –

In Ketama, kif is part of the culture.

Producing it and smoking it are tolerated by the authorities and its cultivation provides a livelihood for 90,000 to 140,000 people in an otherwise deprived region known for its poor soil.

Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"
A villager stands in a field of cannabis near the town of Ketama in Morocco’s northern Rif region on September 2, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

People in the area told reporters that it was mostly traffickers or intermediaries who bought the cannabis harvest for smuggling to Europe or other Moroccan towns.

READ: Lesotho is pioneering Africa’s medical cannabis industry

Hicham divides his time between his cannabis field and a cafe, where he and his friends smoke joints and watch satellite TV — a distraction from unemployment, he says.

In this rural region, job prospects are rare, with one in four young people unemployed, according to official figures.

Hicham and his friends all left school early to support their families, and many have left for Europe in search of work.

Those who stay mostly work seasonally for large cannabis growers, earning about 100 dirhams per day for a month or two at a time.

Most lack the money to get set up and work for themselves.

Environmental cost –

The high yields of imported hybrid cannabis plants come at a cost, however.

The strains require heavy fertilization, which can damage the soil. And their insatiable thirst threatens the region’s water supplies, according to the OFDT.

Critical grows in the dry summer, requiring heavy irrigation, while Beldiya is planted in winter, depending only on rainfall.

Some locals complain that major producers enforce the planting of hybrids even in arid areas. 

“The traffickers impose it and the people don’t have any other choice,” says Mohamed Benyahya, a local community figure.

To water their plantations, major producers install solar pumps on the roofs of their mansions.

Not far from Hicham’s local cafe, a vast terraced cannabis plantation sprawls up a nearby mountain. 

Rows of carefully maintained plants are watered by drip irrigation via a network of pipes connected to a reservoir.

To legalise, or not –

Hybrids like Critical are notable also for high levels of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical. 

The adoption of hybrids explains the “rapid and significant increase in the average THC content” of seized Moroccan hashish, according to the OFDT.

Morocco's renowned cannabis faces threats from foreign hybrid, "Critical"
A villager stands in a field of cannabis near the town of Ketama in Morocco’s northern Rif region on September 2, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

For smokers, the effect compared to Beldiya is pronounced. “One makes you think, the other makes you paranoid,” says Mohamed, a friend of Hicham.

READ: Kenya denies it has given a US company licence to produce cannabis

“European consumers no longer want hybrid cannabis on account of its high THC levels,” Mouna said. 

“Traditional Moroccan cannabis remains highly coveted, particularly by advocates of legalisation.”

Cannabis decriminalisation remains controversial in the conservative country. 

Proposals to legalise cannabis have so far met fierce political opposition.

For Mouna, legalisation could help regulate cannabis consumption while also preserving the more traditional and environmentally friendly Beldiya.

And, while Hicham may have switched to growing Critical, he still only smokes Beldiya.

“The modern varieties,” he says, “are mediocre.”

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Culture & Tourism

Wizkid News: Four latest news on Wizkid you probably missed

Wizkid has not only been on the news for music but also for the many controversies hanging around his name

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portrait of singer and songwriter Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly called Wizkid
People sit beside portrait of singer and songwriter Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly called Wizkid painted on a pillar under the bridge at Ojuelegba in Lagos. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The famous Afro Pop sensation, Ayo Balogun popularly known as Wizkid has had his fair share of celebrity controversies. Ranging from his cold relationships with his baby mamas to his alleged affair with Tiwa Savage, the list is endless. It will be safe for anybody to conclude that he has not only been on the news for music but also for the many controversies hanging around his name.

Wizkid and Tiwa Savage

Relationship rumours sparked off between the star boy and the ‘kelekele love’ crooner, Tiwa Savage as the two started attending events and appearing on music videos together all of a sudden. With many bashing Tiwa Savage for dating a much younger guy. But the interesting thing is, since the rumours started making waves, neither Wizkid nor Tiwa Savage has come out to refute the many claims of amorous relationship between them. In the usual Wizkid manner, he has greeted these rumours with absolute  silence. 

Pay Attention: A musical tribute to Nigerian mothers

It got to a point where Tiwa Savage’s ex husband, Tee Bills had to come in on the matter and made it clear to anybody who cared to listen that, Wizkid could not have anything to do with the mother of his child, as according to him, Wizkid respects him just so much to ruin such a wonderful relationship they have. But what is interesting is, Tiwa Savage has opened up on their relationship during a recent interview with Beats FM, saying that they are ‘friends with benefits’ because they accompany each other to events.

Joro – Wizkid’s latest jam

Wizkid’s latest single ‘Joro’ has attracted a lot of reactions. Both positive and negative. While some said it’s a spiritual song that goes straight to one’s soul, others have trashed the song as being lyrically empty. It has been further criticized on the basis of the timing of its release as many said it’s insensitive to release such a song at the time Nigeria was celebrating her independence, which should be a time of sober reflection for Nigerians.

The artist Wizkid during the MAMA 2016,
The artist Wizkid during the MAMA 2016, in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 22nd, 2016

However, since the release, the song has enjoyed hundreds of views and downloads on various music sites and platforms. it garnered 1.7 million views on YouTube just after 4 days of its release.

Wizkid and Jada Pollock

Recall that a few months ago Wizkid’s third baby mama and manager Jada Pollock announced on instagram that she has called it quits with the singer on the basis of domestic violence. She announced that she would no longer be working with the father of her baby as things would no longer flow well between them, courtesy of Wizkid’s abusive nature. 

Pay Attention: Nigeria’s apex bank partners Lagos on ₦22 billion national theatre renovation

However,in a funny twist of events, Jada Pollock completely denied ever making such accusation against Wizkid. She claimed the accusation which was made via her Instagram account @_jada.p did not come from her as she alleged her account was hacked by an intruder. Her subsequent denial of authoring the post  amused as well as infuriated a lot of Instagram users who were of the opinion that she was such an unintelligent liar!

‘Starboyfest’

The much anticipated StarBoy Fest is barely 2 weeks away. The event which is expected to record large turn out of fans and music lovers all over England, will take place on the 18th and 19th of October 2019  in Manchester and London consecutively. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster

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