A year after Uber set up in Nigeria and inadvertently kicked off Lagos’ wifi-enabled-taxi wars, one of Nigeria’s largest private taxi companies has finally joined the fray. Metrotaxi is teaming up with the internet service provider, Smile Communications (yes, that’s an actual firm) to add internet connectivity to over 200 of its cabs in the city.
In a statement announcing the deal, Smile’s chief marketing officer Alero Ladipo said that the partnership would “reinforce the view that people should remain connected to the internet while on the go”. Whatever “strata of society you belong [to]”, she added happily, “you should live a connected life”.
Inducing even more joy, Ladipo hinted that similar deals could be forthcoming. For its part, Metrotaxi said that, despite the upgrade, fares would remain the same.
Lagos' population of 21m is projected to almost double by 2030, and its economy, which is larger than Kenya's, has been at the heart of Nigeria's economic boom. But it’s widely felt that the city is not living up to its potential, held back by poor quality energy supplies and infrastructure.
Poor internet connectivity is a looming problem, too. According to IBM's Africa Research Lab, greater internet capacity will be crucial to driving Lagos’s future growth. As a consequence, wifi provision has become a very big priority in the region. Already this year, the state government said it would provide connectivity in public areas for the first time; free wifi is now on offer at Lagos’ main international airport, too.
Increasing WiFi availability can only be a boost to a city that is emerging as a leading tech centre in Africa. The city has already produced several thriving start-ups: Iroko TV, dubbed Africa's answer to Netflix, is only five years old, but already it’s the largest platform for African entertainment in the world.
The fact more than one Lagos taxi firm is using free wifi to promote its services only highlights quite how important connectivity is becoming to locals. The combination of Lagos’ infamous traffic jams and its citizens’ love of smart phones could make Nigerian transport and wifi availability a perfect match