Yango, Bolt, and InDrive: The market opportunity & battle for dominance in Zimbabwe

What opportunity does Yango have as it enters a market that is saturated with the population in-large part unable to access or afford it’s services?

Yango, Zimbabwe, ride-share, ride hailing, ride share, Market Opportunity, Market Size, Market Analysis

Yango, formerly known as Yandex Taxi B.V, appears to be the newest entrant into the Zimbabwean ride-share market according to advertisements that have flooded in on Facebook and Instagram. 

Yango, Zimbabwe, Harare

Surprisingly Yango is registered in the Netherlands but is owned by Russian IT firm Yandex which many will be aware of as the Russian alternative for Google and Bing. The company’s operations have spread across diverse geographies across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America. The greatest footprint Yango has is in Israel with the ride-hailing company saying on its website that it operates in eleven cities, more than any other in its current line-up of the country. 

The significance of this move is that Bolt recently entered the Zimbabwean market following the introduction of Rida and InDrive not too long ago. The ride-hailing market in Zimbabwe has become crowded as it stands now it’s competing with Vaya Africa, GTaxi, Hwindi, the aforementioned InDrive and Rida, on top of the conventional taxi operators and informal transporters. 

Zimbabwe’s “Transport Crisis”

There is a significant public transport deficit in Zimbabwe. To caption this problem we need to take a look at the historical outlay of public transport in the southern African nation.

In 1997, and just counting Harare, there were an estimated 2,8 million trips taken daily. This movement was broken down into the following categories:

Trip Purpose Average Trips per Household Average Trips per Capita
Shopping & Social Outings 1.710.22
Source: Travel Characteristics of Urban Households in Harare, Zimbabwe (1997)

Despite the number of trips taken, walking was at the time and probably still is the most popular means of transport because it was the most cost-effective. The only caveat is the distance to be travelled, availability of public transport and access to a private vehicle. 

Source: Travel Characteristics of Urban Households in Harare, Zimbabwe (1997)

The previously mentioned exceptions reflect the distance needed to be traversed on average 

Average Distance (km)12.914.110.916.514.58.21.511.2
Source: Travel Characteristics of Urban Households in Harare, Zimbabwe (1997)

What sets this period apart from today is that there was a state-operated national transport operator (ZUPCO) which significantly offset the transport need. That apparatus was also supported by the introduction of privately owned commuter omnibuses which took on a number of routes that eased the transport demand somewhat. Additionally, the population of Harare was nearly 1.5 million people and it now stands at close to 2.5 million according to Zimstat.

Year 1992200220122022
Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT)

These figures show, at least at the very surface level, that there are close to a million people more worth of demand that has been put on a system that no longer has a state-owned public transport operator with a significant urban transport presence. Moreover, with the growth of the city over the years through housing development, business activities attracting provincial migrants and other causes the network of trips could be assumed to have become more complex than what was represented in the late 90s.

Shifts in the Zimbabwe’s public transport sector

The easiest conclusion to arrive at is that there is a demand for transport which is why there have been so many attempts to usher in different approaches to it from the public and private sectors in Zimbabwe. 

In 1994 it was the rise of Commuter Omnibuses (known as Kombis) and at the time there was some pushback as to how they could meaningfully contribute to the public transport crisis. However, the findings at the time showed that they had extended the routes available with 83% of them operating in high-density areas of Harare, with the remainder in medium to low-density.

Furthermore, between January and September 1995, the fleet of commuter omnibuses represented 30% of the public transport fleet. This trend can be observed in the swing of the mode of transport in Harare between 1988 and September 1994.

Figures represent a percentage

Year ZUPCO (Stage Bus)Emergency TaxiCommuter OmnibusMeter TaxiMotorcar or CycleBicycleWalkOther
1994 (Jan)25184114335
1995 (Sept)209160.5145.5341
1996 (Jan)115210.5182.542
Source: The initial effects of introducing commuter omnibus services in Harare, Zimbabwe (1996)

The economic upheaval in the 2000s led to the rapid informalisation of the transport sector with attempts being made in the 2010s and early this decade to remove them or most recently an attempt to formalise them under ZUPCO. The attempts at policy at the council and national level did nothing to alleviate the demand for transport in the country. It brought about a move to mobility independence from those with the resources to purchase a private vehicle and the conversion of those vehicles into private and unregulated transport carriers (Mushikashika).

Vehicle Type Motorcycle Motorised Tricycle Private Vehicle Taxi (Mushikashika, Shuttles, Taxis)Buses (Intercity)Commuter Omnibuses (Intracity)
National Stock (2020)45,6533,6521,042,82626,75510,31968.866
Share of Vehicle Stock (2020)3.81%0.3%87.04%2.23%0.86%5.75%
Source: National Electric Mobility Policy and Market Readiness Framework for Zimbabwe 2020

Does Yango, following Bolt into Zim, show that ride-hailing is an alternative to traditional public transport?

The next “revolution”, and using that term very lightly because ride-hailing has been tried in Zimbabwe, are foreign companies coming armed with social media ads and commission-free periods that appear indefinite (why that is will be for another day)   

Ironically, the ride-hailing companies Yango, InDrive, Rida and others will be pooling from the over a million privately owned vehicles in Zimbabwe which is much like what Mushikashikas did. 

The question of whether they will alleviate the transport problem is still unfolding, however, we can look at this from the perspective of cost and the distance of trips. If we are to take the benchmark from 1997 as an example:

Adding to that is the issue of internet connectivity. Ride-hailing services like Yango are only accessible through mobile applications that need a constant access to the internet. This issue significantly limits the number of available users because even though mobile internet access in Zimbabwe has been on the rise over the last decade, most recently registering a 4.7% increase between Q3 and Q4 in 2023, where this data is being used is the more pertinent question.

The only available source to answer the question of “How are Zimbabweans using their mobile data?” comes from the ZIMSTAT’s ICT Access Survey from 2020 which said that 92.5% of respondents used their mobile phones for making calls with the first internet-specific service, WhatsApp, coming in a third with 38.3% of those asked answering in the affirmative.

Other (e.g YouTube, Tiktok and Snapchat)0.5
Virtual meetings3.8
Sending and receiving emails6.5
Data transfer and office applications11.3
Browsing the Internet17.7
Mobile banking transactions22.4
Opening downloaded documents23.8
Uploading and downloading data25.8
Multimedia and Test messaging62.8
Phone call95.2
Individuals who used mobile phones 9,601,352
Source ZIMSTAT 2020

Things have changed since those findings were published however it may not be in the way that upends the 2020 findings in any meaningful way because the cost of internet services outside of an app/service-specific bundles is still high. 

There are still use cases for ride-hailing services like Yango…

Despite what the various data sources present, there are still people who can afford wider internet services, don’t own cars and have tailored their lives around the use of taxis. The quantity of these people is something that we are unsure of… yet.

We can speculate on the distinct travel patterns within Harare’s City Limits from our observations of travel in Harare. Below are the many differing use cases that drive demand for ride-hailing.

The CBD Pulse:

  • Short Bursts: Trips in the Central Business District (CBD) are a whirlwind of quick escapes, averaging a brisk 3 kilometres or less. Imagine darting from meeting to meeting, each a hop, skip, and a tap away on your ride-hailing app.
  • Micro Transactions: Fares in the CBD mirror these short distances, typically amounting to smaller charges. Think of it as a cost-effective way to navigate the urban jungle without breaking the bank.

Suburban Sprawls:

  • The Roundabout: The story shifts dramatically in the suburbs. Here, the likelihood of return journeys skyrockets. Picture families venturing out for errands or heading to work – these trips often involve coming back home, reflected in the increased distance (over 4 kilometres) and fares.
  • Point-to-Point Potential: While return trips are common, point-to-point commutes also hold their own. Imagine someone catching a ride from the suburbs straight to the airport, bypassing the usual loop.

Peculiar Pockets:

  • The Scholarly Squad: Harare’s student hubs create fascinating clusters of passengers. Carpooling becomes a tempting option, with costs shared amongst friends, leading to a potential (and humorous) scenario of overflowing vehicles – a test of both friendship and ride-hailing capacity.

Customer Catch:

  • Proximity First: The ride-hailing gods prioritise efficiency. When you request a ride, the app first seeks a driver closest to you, ensuring a swift pick-up.
  • Availability Reigns Supreme: Once proximity is established, the app checks for driver availability. The closest driver with an open schedule gets the nod, guaranteeing a smooth and speedy ride.

This, however, doesn’t represent the size of the market opportunity for Yango and its contemporaries Bolt, InDrive et al but does show that there are use cases for these companies’ services.

What we are still discovering is how this will have an impact on how Zimbabweans commute. If you are interested in our unabridged findings and data reach out to us with the link here