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“Okada” Wars: How Nigeria’s Uber-style motorbikes are competing for Lagos routes5 min read

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)

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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.   

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“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.”

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Environment

How “ghost gears” are haunting Cape Town’s ocean wildlife

Nets, lines, cages, etc are either lost or intentionally dumped in the ocean at an estimated rate of one tonne per minute

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How "ghost gears" are haunting Cape Town's ocean wildlife

Far out in the South Atlantic Ocean, invisible to the South African coastline, diver Pascal Van Erp surfaced with an abandoned lobster cage covered in algae and other marine organisms.

He pulled it up to the deck of the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace vessel conducting research around Mount Vema, an underwater mountain located around 1,600 kilometres northwest of Cape Town.

Underneath the layer of the dark algae was a green hard plastic cage used to trap lobsters, with a small white pot attached to it.

“We are a thousand miles off the coast of South Africa and finding abandoned fishing gear here… is extremely disgusting,” Greenpeace marine biologist and oceans expert Thilo Maack told reporters on board the ship.

Known as “ghost gear”, abandoned fishing objects make up a significant volume of plastic pollution in seas and oceans around the world and can trap large marine wildlife, causing them slow, painful deaths.

Nets, lines, cages, crayfish traps and gillnets are either lost or intentionally dumped in the ocean at an estimated average rate of one tonne per minute.

An underwater drone revealed Mount Vema, where the Greenpeace mission operated, had not escaped such pollution. Images showed a scattered array of fishing ropes and nets clinging to the 4,600-metre mountain, whose peak sits 26 metres below the surface.

Researchers on the three-week expedition could not determine how long the abandoned gear had been sitting there — but say it could have been there for more than a year given the state it was in.

The United Nations estimates that 640,000 tonnes of fishing equipment is discarded around the oceans each year, the weight equivalent of 50,000 double-decker buses, said Greenpeace.

They are estimated to account for 10 per cent of the plastic waste in the oceans and seas globally, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

But “in some specific ocean areas, fishing gear makes up the vast majority of plastic rubbish, including over 85 per cent of the rubbish on the seafloor on seamounts and ocean ridges,” as well as in the Great Pacific gyre, a Greenpeace report said Wednesday.

‘Zombie in the water’ –

Retired Marine Biologist Professor Robert Anderson examines a ghost fishing device onboard the Greenpeace vessel Artic Sunrise at the end of an exploration of Vema Sea Mount, on October 31, 2019. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

From their underwater resting ground, discarded non-biodegradable materials continue to catch fish and crustaceans, and ensnare large mammals such as dolphins.

“(Ghost gear) is like a zombie in the water,” Maack said. “Nobody takes out the catch, but it’s still catching.”

Such pollution kills and injures more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles annually, according to UK-based charity World Animal Protection.

More than 300 endangered sea turtles were killed in a single incident last year after swimming into a what was believed to be a discarded fishing net in southern Mexico.

“It’s a huge problem because as they are initially set to trap and kill marine wildlife, they will do that for as long as they are in the oceans,” Greenpeace Africa’s campaigner Bukelwa Nzimande, 29, told reporters.

Plastic can take up to 600 years to break down, eventually disintegrating into harmful micro-particles that are ingested by fish and end up in people’s food.

Bottom fishing was banned on Mount Vema in 2007 by the Namibia-based South-East Atlantic Fishing Organisation (SEAFO).

But only one per cent of the world’s oceans are covered by regional management bodies like SEAFO.

‘Cycle of death’ –

A diver prepares himself before diving in the Vema Sea Mount waters, on October 31, 2019. – Abandoned fishing objects, also known as “ghost gear”, make up a significant volume of plastic pollution in seas and oceans around the world and can trap large marine wildlife, causing them slow, painful deaths. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

Around 64 per cent of oceans lie outside national jurisdiction, according to the UN.

Environmental groups are lobbying the intergovernmental organisation to come up with comprehensive governance systems that better protect marine life.

They are also pushing for stricter measures forcing fishermen to retrieve lost gear or pay for its retrieval.

Meanwhile, non-profit organisations have taken it upon themselves to do some cleaning of the seas and oceans.

“For me, removing lost gear is the most exciting (thing),” said diver Van Erp, founder of Dutch-headquartered clean-up charity Ghost Fishing, which has been operating since 2012.

“When I find it I’m really thrilled,” said the 43-year old, his bright orange suit still dripping from his hour-long dive in the cold South Atlantic Ocean waters.

“It keeps catching. It’s sort of a cycle of death.”

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Entertainment

Oscar Academy disqualifies Nigeria’s Lionheart over English dialogue

With Lionheart’s disqualification, the numbers of movies nominated for the award has been reduced to 92

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Oscar Academy disqualifies Nigeria’s Lionheart over English dialogue

Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut, “Lionheart” has been disqualified from the list of the movies nominated for the Best International Feature Film category in the Oscar Awards. The reason the movie was dropped was that it has too many dialogues in English.

This is because the Academy’s criterion for Best International Feature Film category is that the award is for movies made outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue.

With Lionheart’s disqualification, the numbers of movies nominated for the award has been reduced to 92. Also, the disqualification reduced the number of female directors in the category to 28. The movie which was scheduled to screen for the Academy voters in the international category on Wednesday was announced to voters to have been disqualified via an email on Monday.

The decision by Oscar caused an uproar from different quarters, with many condemning the decision. Among those who vented their displeasure on the matter online was the award-winning American filmmaker, Ava DuVernay.

In her tweet, she said:

“To @the Academy, you disqualified Nigeria’s first-ever submission for Best International feature because it is in English. But English is the official language of Nigeria. Are you barring this country from ever competing for an Oscar in its official language?”

Genevieve Nnaji replied DuVernay’s tweet with “Thank you so much @Ava. I am the director of  Lionheart. This movie represents the way we speak as Nigerians. This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country; thereby making us #OneNigeria. @TheAcademy.”

Interestingly, Nigeria’s Oscar Selection Committee (NOSC) has on Tuesday, responded to the Disqualification of the movie from the 92nd Academy Awards saying that nominees in the Best International Feature must have a predominantly non-English dialogue track and Lionheart, though a wonderful movie falls below that criterion. The chairperson of NOSC Chineze Anyaene says:

“The budding Nigerian film industry is often faced with producing films with wide reach which often makes the recording dialogue predominantly English with non-English infusions in some cases.”

“Going forward, the committee intends to submit films that are predominantly foreign language – non-English recording dialogue. We are, therefore, urging filmmakers to shoot with the intention of non-English recording dialogue as a key qualifying parameter to represent the country in the most prestigious award.”

Oscar Academy disqualifies Nigeria’s Lionheart over English dialogue

“The committee is working tirelessly in organizing workshops, seminars and using other available media to create robust awareness on the guidelines and requirements for an International Feature Film Entry.”

“Lionheart passed on other technical requirements from the story, to sound and picture except for language as adjudged by the Academy screening matrix, which was a challenge for the committee at a time. This is an eye-opener and steps forward into growing a better industry.”

Lionheart was produced in 2018 by Chinny Onwugbenu and was directed by Genevieve Nnaji. Netflix acquired the film on 7 September 2018.

With the acquisition, Lionheart became the first Netflix original film produced in Nigeria. Lionheart premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada.

The movie featured Musicians Phyno and Peter Okoye (Psquare) who made their first acting debut. Some of the best brains in Nollywood were cast in the movie. They include Pete Edochie, Genevieve Nnaji, Ngozie Ezeonu, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Jemima Osunde, Onyeka Onwenu and many others.

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East Africa News

10 Young African authors making Africa proud

Take a look at 10 young African authors doing our continent proud

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10 Young African authors making Africa proud
One of Africa's most promising writers, Warsan Shire at the Girl Rising and International Rescue Committee's special screening of Documentary Film "Brave Girl Rising" for International Women's Day

For more than a century, Africans have employed writing as a means to tell their stories. Be it stories of our daily lives, our societies, or our displeasure with their governments and their policies. Writing particularly took shape and form in Africa during the colonial era. Young African elite found writing to be a great tool in challenging the ideals of colonialism and the subsequent fight for independence.

African Nationalists like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere and Sédar Senghor all fought colonialism through writings and newspaper publications. 

Later colonial and post-colonial era-authors such as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Kenneth Kaunda, Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor, Chinua Achebe and Ayikwei Ama reinforced literature in telling the African story. With these literary icons setting the pace, African literature took shape and form and has improved immensely over the years.

Let’s take a look at the new generation of African writers that have taken the mantle and are doing it big on the continent and beyond: 

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Biyi Bandele

Bandele is a Nigerian novelist, playwright and filmmaker. He grew up in the Northern part of Nigeria from where he started writing at a tender age. He writes for journals, theatre, television and radio. Bandele‘s works include plays such as Rain; Marching For Fausa, Two Horsemen, Death Catches The Hunter and Me And The Boys. His novels include The Man Who Came In From The Back Of Beyond, The Street, and Burma Boy which was reviewed on The Independent.

Biyi Bandele, Nigerian writer in 2009
Biyi Bandele, Nigerian writer in 2009. Credit: Ulf Andersen / Aurimages.

Bandele’s works are notable for their mixture of surrealism and phantasm. He has won awards like the International Students Playscript Competition (1989), London New Play Festival Award (1994), and the Wingate Scholarship Award (1995) amongst others. 

Maaza Mengiste

Mengiste is an Ethiopian writer whose published works focus on migration, the Ethiopian revolution and the plight of sub-Saharan immigrants in Europe. Her works are inspired by her personal experience. Her family migrated from Ethiopia during the Ethiopian revolution when she was only 4 years old. She completed her childhood in Nigeria, the United States and Kenya.

Maaza Mengiste - 1 author making Africa proud

Her first novel, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze, was named one of the 10 best contemporary African books by The Guardian. Her awards, honours and nominations include the Creative Capital Award for Literary Fiction in 2019. Beneath The Lion’s Gazewas named one of The Best Books of 2010. She was a Puterbaugh Fellow in 2013, received a literature fellowship in 3028 and has been recognized by the National Empowerment for the Arts aside from others.  

Warsan Shire – African author and teacher

10 Young African authors making Africa proud
Writer Warsan Shire attends Girl Rising and International Rescue Committee’s special screening of Documentary Film “Brave Girl Rising” for International Women’s Day at West Hollywood City Council Chamber on March 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images/AFP

Shire is a Somali writer, poet and teacher. Her poetry centres on journey and trauma. In 2013, Shire won the first Brunei University African Poetry Prize. In the same year, she also won the Young Poet Laureate for London. The American singer, Beyonce employed Shire’s poetry in her film Lemonade produced in 2016.

Read Also: Iconic Zimbabwean novelist Charles Mungoshi dies at 71

Uwem Akpan – author of ‘Say you are one of them’

He became popular after his work ‘Say You Are One Of Them’ won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her 65th book club selection. The book also won the PEN Open Book Award. ‘Say You Are One Of Them’ is a collection of 5 stories which is set in different African countries. The New Yorker has published two of his stories. One was about a family living in Nairobi and the other was “The Communion.” 

Writer Uwem Akpan, also making Africa proud

Dinaw Mengetsu – novelist and writer from Ethiopia

Dinaw is an Ethiopian writer and novelist. He has written 3 novels and at one time wrote for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur. He also wrote for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda. His works have been published in Harper’s, The Wallstreet Journal and other publications. His first book The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears was published in 2007.

Dinaw Mengetsu - an African writer

He was selected to be a McArthur Fellow in 2012. His works have won the following awards: New York Times Notable  Book, 2007; Guardian First Book Award, 2007; Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature, 2011; Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2008 and Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, 2012. He has many other awards, honours and nominations to his name. 

Nii Ayikwei Parkies – African author and publisher

Nii Ayikwei Parkies is a Ghanian poet, writer and publisher. Parkies made the list of the 39 writers aged under 40 from sub-Saharan Africa who in April 2014 were named as part of Hay Festival’s Africa39 project. He has performed his poetry works in Ghana, England and America.

He was among the three youngest writers featured in the Poems On The Underground Programme in London. He was featured for his poem Tin Roof. Parkies is loved much in his country for his devotion to helping young writers grow. To this end, he set up a writers’ fund to help promote writing among Ghanian youths.

Nii Ayikwei Parkies - African & Ghanian writer

He has been nominated and won awards both in Ghana and beyond. His awards include the Farrago Best Performance Poetry Award, 2003 in and 2004. He also won Ghana’s National ACRAG Award for Poetry and Literary Advocacy.

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Chimamanda Adichie – World-renowned African author

Adichie is a celebrated Nigerian writer whose works range from novels and short stories to non-fiction. She has written 3 well-received novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. She also has a collection of short stories titled “The Thing Around Your Neck” among other literary works. Adichie has won many awards and received several nominations for her works.

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie poses prior to the start of the Christian Dior Women's Fall-Winter
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie poses prior to the start of the Christian Dior Women’s Fall-Winter 2019/2020 Haute Couture collection fashion show in Paris, on July 1, 2019. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The awards include The Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book (Africa and Overall), 2005; MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, 2008, and the PEN Beyond Margins Award. She has also received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the International Nonino Prize, 2008, the O. Henry Prize in 2003 among others. 

Chika Unigwe – African author of On Black Sisters’ Street

Unigwe is an award-winning Nigerian Writer. She is the author of On Black Sisters’ Street. The novel was first published in Dutch in 2008 with the title Fata Morgana before it was translated to English, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian and other languages. The highly successful novel tells the stories of African prostitutes living in Belgium.

Writer Chika Unigwe during the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 at Diggi Palac
Writer Chika Unigwe and Abeer Y. Hoque during the Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 at Diggi Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on 29 Jan 2018. (Photo by Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto)

She has won many awards including the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and the 2012 NLNG Prize for Literature. In 2012, she was rated by Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian as one of the “top five African writers”. Her short story Happiness won a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. 

Ahmed Alaidy – Scriptwriter, poet and novelist

Portrait Ahmed Alaidy, egyptian novelist
Portrait Ahmed Alaidy, Egyptian novelist, May 2009 ©Effigie/Leemage

Alaidy is an Egyptian poet, novelist, scriptwriter and editor. He is the author of the novel Being Abbas El Abd. In 2006, the novel was awarded the Sawiris Foundation’s 2nd Prize in Egyptian Literature. He writes as a freelancer for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has also authored a political comic strip. He has written for the Egyptian opposition newspaper al-Dostour.

Mohale Mashigo – African Author and Songwriter

Mohale Mashigo

Mashingo is a South African novelist and songwriter. She is the writer of the widely acclaimed novel The Yearning, which is her debut novel. In 2016, The Yearning won the University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Debut Writing. It was also listed for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2016. She recently published a collection of short stories titled Intruders. She also writes comic books and has won awards in songwriting.

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