Disrupting Africa: Can Uber Conquer Lagos?

Blog author Gavin Serkin is the Editorial Director for OnFrontiers and the Founder and Managing Editor of the Frontier Funds Consultancy.

A handful of companies define each generation.

They become part of our language.

In my house, we still Hoover our carpets – though with a Dyson that long outmoded our old paper bag vacuum. I’m also old enough to remember whiling away hours with orange felt headphones attached to my Sony Walkman cassette, and I’d probably still be reaching for my digital “Walkman” were it not for Apple’s ipod – the icon that marked the beginning of i-everything.

So what is the iconic brand of our time? What’s the transformative technology of this decade? Who else can claim that mantle but the ubiquitous Uber.

Uberize or Uberise (ˈuːbəˌraɪz)

verb (transitive)

to subject (an industry) to a business model in which services are offered on demand through direct contact between a customer and a supplier, usually via mobile technology

                                                 Collins English Dictionary

Derivatives of the Uber business model are being applied to every aspect of every industry in just about every country, whether it’s food, finance, healthcare, education – or even expert networks.

A byproduct of success is that few companies exercise our collective emotions quite like Uber – excitement about new applications that make the impossible suddenly within reach. And frustration when the model for our time breaks down.

At the Wall Street Journal’s recent Investing in Africa conference, with A-list speakers from President Kagame of Rwanda to Bob Diamond and Ashish Thakkar of Atlas Mara, no one triggered argument within the audience quite like Uber’s Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager.

“Having just returned from Lagos, I have to tell you,” one delegate told Alon Lits, “that Uber doesn’t work in Nigeria.”

Formally dressed in a gray suit and navy shirt – only his bright yellow and orange striped socks giving a hint that his was no ordinary company – Lits absorbed the criticism with promises to investigate.

Alon Lits, Uber’s Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager

Then another man stood up in the audience: “I’ve also been using Uber and I can tell you that that drivers arrived within a couple of minutes. It works.”

Whether or not Uber runs on time in Lagos – a truly transformative challenge in Africa’s most populated and gridlocked city – it’s clear is that this company touches all of our lives and business thinking.

And that’s why, when we decided to start a series of live discussions to learn from experts on emerging and frontier market themes, Uber was the obvious choice for our launch.

We want you to participate and put your questions to Uber.

Register here


Who? Alon Lits, Uber Sub-Saharan Africa General Manager
What? Half-hour live discussion
Why? Get the inside track on the world’s most transformative company
When? Tuesday, April 4th, 11:30am-noon in NYC; 4:30-5pm in London
Where? Your computer
How? Register here

Coming next on OnFrontiers #ExpertChat live discussions:

April 18

One man building the first industrial scale solar fields in Africa: Christian Wray, Founder & CEO of JCM Power

May 2

“Wall Street’s new global thinker,” as Barron’s front-page described him: Ruchir Sharma, Head of Emerging Markets & Chief Global Strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management


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