French ride-hailing app aims to reinvent the taxi experience in Senegal

A person checks the Yango taxi app on a phone in Dakar
A person checks the Yango taxi app on a phone in Dakar, Senegal March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Ngouda Dione

March 14, 2022

By Nellie Peyton and Elodie Toto

DAKAR (Reuters) – Maguette Mbaye used to take taxis to her bank job in Senegal’s capital Dakar, but haggling over prices and breathing fumes through open windows every day wore her down.

She left all that behind when French ride-hailing app Heetch was launched in January. The ride costs a little more, but she considers it a small price to pay for the reassurance of a better car and a fixed price.

“Sometimes we have dusty taxis where the windows don’t close and the door can only be opened from the outside. I’ve been getting decent cars since I’ve been using Heetch,” said Mbaye, 33.

Heetch is the second ride-hailing app to be launched in Senegal after Yango, owned by Russian tech giant Yandex, started operations in December.

Both are testing a largely untapped ridesharing market in francophone West Africa, where the industry has been slower to take off than in anglophone countries like Nigeria and Ghana.

A growing middle class and widespread smartphone use have created an attractive market in Senegal, but there are challenges. Many drivers are illiterate, have never used a GPS and are used to negotiating prices.

Yango, which operates in 21 countries worldwide, launched in Ivory Coast in 2018, where it competes with industry giant Uber.

Heetch, one of the top three ride-hailing apps in France, is also planning to launch in Ivory Coast this month. It is said that around 3,000 people have downloaded the application in Senegal so far. Yango declined to provide figures.

Any taxi driver can sign up for both apps if they complete training and their vehicle meets safety standards. While a few hundred have signed up for Heetch and Yango, a few are unfazed.

“What I earn from driving around the city is more than those who use yango,” said Modou Gning. “Where the customer is asked to pay 2,000 CFA francs ($3.37), Yango charges 1,300. This is good for yango but not for the taxi driver.”

The app companies are careful not to upset taxi drivers who have protested ride-hailing apps in other countries.

“We’re not a taxi-killer application,” said Patrick Pedersen, general manager of expansion at Heetch.

($1 = 593,0000 CFA francs)

(Additional reporting by Ngouda Dione in Dakar and Ange Aboa in Abidjan; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Aaron Ross and Mike Harrison) French ride-hailing app aims to reinvent the taxi experience in Senegal

Emma Bowman

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