By Mark Kawalya
Through its investment fund, Google has invested in Safeboda, a ride-hailing app that has brought sanity to Uganda’s motorcycle taxi transportation industry. Over the years, SafeBoda has registered and put in place safety rules which its riders must follow after accepting rides using the firm’s application.
Among the tech behemoth’s investments, which have largely remained undisclosed, Google included a $50 million Africa Investment Fund, which is earmarked for African early startups and those that are in the growth stage.
With services in both Uganda and Nigeria, SafeBoda is backed by investors such as Unbound, Beenext, Justin Kan, Allianz X and GoVentures. The company launched its app in 2017 and the platform has grown to serve more than 1 million customers, expanding its business to offer parcel delivery, food and shop payments along with some financial services.
When asked about Google’s investment, Ricky Rapa Thomson, who co-founded SafeBoda said he welcomes Google to their pool and is excited to continue with the drive to foster innovation in informal transportation and payments across East and West Africa.
“As a former boda driver in Kampala, I know that we are the lifeblood of Africa’s cities, and we power economic development. SafeBoda is thrilled that leading global companies such as Google see the importance of backing start-ups working towards these goals.” He said.
Nitin Gajria, Managing Director for Google in Africa, added, “I am thrilled about our first investment from the $50M Africa Investment Fund that we announced two months ago. This is part of our ongoing commitment to tech startups in Africa. I am of the firm belief that no one is better placed to solve Africa’s biggest problems than Africa’s young developers and entrepreneurs. We look forward to announcing subsequent investments in other startups.”
The fund is part of a larger plan by Google to invest USD1 billion over the next five years to encourage digital transformation in Africa. Google will invest in startups and give them access to Google’s expertise through networks and technologies that will bolster their ability to build impactful products that will benefit African communities.