French VTC app aims to reinvent the taxi experience in Senegal | Tech News

By Nellie Peyton and Elodie Toto

DAKAR (Reuters) – Maguette Mbaye had always taken taxis to work in the bank in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, but haggling over prices and inhaling fumes from open windows every day was wearing her down.

She left all that behind when the French carpooling app Heetch launched in January. The ride costs a bit more, but she considers it a small price to pay for the peace of mind of a better car and a fixed price.

“Sometimes we have dusty taxis where the windows don’t close, the door only opens from the outside. Since I’ve been using Heetch, I’ve had decent cars,” said Mbaye, 33.

Heetch is the second ride-sharing app to launch in Senegal after Yango, which is owned by Russian tech giant Yandex, began operations in December.

Both are testing a largely untapped market for ride-sharing services in Francophone West Africa, where the industry has been slower to take hold than in Anglophone countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana.

A growing middle class and the widespread use of smartphones 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, active in 21 countries around the world, was launched in Ivory Coast in 2018, where it competes with industry giant Uber.

Heetch, one of the top three carpooling apps in France, also plans to launch in Ivory Coast this month. He said around 3,000 people have downloaded the app so far in Senegal. Yango declined to provide numbers.

Any taxi driver can register for either application if he is trained and his vehicle meets safety standards. While a few hundred have signed up for Heetch and Yango, some are unimpressed.

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

App companies are careful not to antagonize taxi drivers, who in other countries have staged protests against ride-sharing apps.

“We’re not a killer taxi app,” said Patrick Pedersen, Heetch’s general manager for expansion.

($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)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

Lance B. Holton