Exclusive: Nigeria's first women-only ride-hailing app, HerRyde, "hibernates" after a year

After a year of operation in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja, HerRyde, a women-only ride-hailing platform has “hibernated” to re-strategise and source for funding ahead of a near re-launch.

Exclusive: Nigeria's first women-only ride-hailing app, HerRyde, "hibernates" after a year
A HerRyde driver. Credit: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

A shadow lurks over daily commutes in Nigeria's bustling capital, Abuja. "One chance" robberies, where unsuspecting passengers are lured into vehicles by criminals, plague some routes, particularly impacting women. Monsurah Oluwafuyi, a resident who has experienced harassment, knows this fear well.

Driven to create safer spaces, Oluwafuyi joined forces with her friends (who were also tech enthusiasts) Muhammad Muazu and Kamaldeen Ibrahim. Their shared experiences of harassment and a tragic loss to Oluwafuyi fueled their determination.

In August 2022, their trio launched HerRyde, a women-only ride-hailing app in Abuja.

HerRyde offered a two-pronged approach. First, it prioritised passenger safety by exclusively connecting women riders with vetted women drivers. Real-time ride tracking and an SOS button provide additional peace of mind. Second, HerRyde empowered women by creating new job opportunities in the ride-hailing industry, which has traditionally been dominated by men.

“People, both female and male, don’t really like women driving them. Even the rate of acceptance for us as commercial drivers is low. We are still fighting for that,” Nkechi Abiola, the founder of Ladies on Wheel Association of Nigeria, recently told Al Jazeera.

Since its launch, HerRyde facilitated over 2,000 rides for more than 500 passengers, with a network of 200 registered women drivers, according to HerRyde's former CEO Monsurah Oluwafuyi in an interview with Plans were underway to expand to Lagos, with a waitlist of 300 female drivers eager to join the platform. "We achieved these results without a marketing budget," she said.

However, in a surprising turn of events, HerRyde's co-founders decided to "hibernate" the bootstrapped business in October 2023, after a year of operation. The website and mobile applications are currently inactive.

“It was a good test phase for us to identify what the key problems were in the industry,” Oluwafuyi said. “We found that it was important for us to go back to the drawing board to re-strategise. We are only hibernating so that we can improve our system and get more money.” She did not comment on specific challenges that they faced.

This move isn't the end of the road for HerRyde. Oluwafuyi revealed that they are maintaining communication with their network of drivers and are currently exploring opportunities with investors, suggesting a potential future relaunch, which the former CEO said will be in “a few months”.

The company's future direction is also in flux. “We might evolve as the market requires and for profitability,” she added.

Although Oluwafuyi stepped down as CEO in March 2024, she said she would continue putting her weight behind the business. “My co-founders will carry on with driving HerRyde,” she said. Efforts to reach Muazu and Ibrahim for comment were unsuccessful. However, Ibrahim's LinkedIn profile indicates he left HerRyde in December 2023 and works as a product manager at Lemfi, a pan-African fintech startup.

Regardless, the former CEO maintains that HerRyde will continue to improve around the same vision. “We are serving a huge market that is underserved across the country and the rest of Africa. Women's safety is a big concern,” she said.

HerRyde initially launched in Abuja due to the less strict regulations compared to Lagos. However, their return might coincide with a more robust regulatory framework, as the Federal Capital Territory Administration implements measures to oversee ride-hailing operations and address safety concerns.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include a recent tweet from a HerRyde passenger. (May 15, 2024. 10:12 WAT)

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