As a growing number of ride-hailing companies vie to penetrate the untapped market in Ethiopia, one company with women drivers only is recently gaining popularity in the country’s male-dominated sector and making a good profit.
Meron Mengistie is one of the 150 women drivers at the Seregela Taxi Ride Service, which solely hires women drivers in its ambition to penetrate Ethiopia’s ever-expanding ride-hailing service.
“I have always dreamt of driving and this job has given me the best platform to do so,” Ms Mengistie told Xinhua recently.
Figures from the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport show that about 10,000 drivers are presently engaged in ride-hailing services across Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Women, however, are insignificantly represented in the sector, contributing less than three per cent of it.
“I am so happy that Seregela introduced such an opportunity for women. I call on others to follow suit and hire more women drivers so that they can support their families,” said Ms Mengistie.
Female cab drivers
The Seregela Company, founded in March 2020, works solely with pre-orders and communications with customers from a call centre to track the activities of each car and ensure the safety of its female cab drivers.
“We are enjoying an increasing number of customers. Naturally, women are very caring. As a female taxi driver, I treat customers to the best of my ability amid safe driving,” said Mengistie, who is a mother of two.
Hailu Zergaw, fleet manager at Seregela Taxi Ride Service, said serving with only women drivers is helping to expand its business, in addition to promoting gender parity in Ethiopia’s male-dominated transport sector.
“We are unique in that we provide the ride-hailing service with women drivers and that helped us expand our customers’ base,” Zergaw told Xinhua.
Ride-hailing service is relatively a new venture in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, with a growing number of companies vying to penetrate the untapped market, mainly in the capital of Addis Ababa and its surroundings.
Zergaw insisted that the company, the first of its kind by dispatching women-operated taxi services, envisaged boosting the economic participation of women and creating much-needed job opportunities.
Pool of talent
“Women are little represented in Ethiopia’s transportation industry. It is a vocation that has never existed (for women) and we are trying to create a pool of talent, right from sourcing, mobilizing and retaining. It is a challenge,” said Zergaw.
Noting women drivers are often praised for their safety and loyalty, Zergaw emphasized that the company aspires to leverage this distinctive quality so as to attain market sustainability.
Sileshi Worku, a Seregela ride-hailing service user, singled out the maximum safety and security assurance as a distinguished quality in using women-operated taxi services.
“The female drivers never drive beyond the speed limit,” Worku told Xinhua, noting that he switched to using women-operated taxi services for close to one year. Wearing neat uniforms in brand colours, the female drivers cater to commuters with 150 cabs across Addis Ababa.
“We want to boost women’s income and ease their entry into the transportation industry, from which they have traditionally been excluded,” Zergaw said.
The initiative to exclusively hire women drivers was, however, a major challenge for the company, mainly due to women’s nearly non-existent representation in the sector, said Zergaw, claiming that getting women drivers on board and adequately training them has been a difficult task for the company.
In addition to offering driving lessons, the company also trains its women drivers on the entire mechanism and functioning of their cars.
Blen Mehari, another driver recruited by the company, said the rare opportunity enabled her to be productive and help her family economically.
“I used to spend my days sitting idle until I got a chance to work as a driver in the company six months ago. I am very grateful for having this chance to become a professional taxi driver,” said Ms Mehari, who provides taxi service for up to 10 commuters a day.
Noting that women taxi drivers relatively encounter higher psychological and physical harassment than male drivers due to the lack of women’s representation in the male-dominated sector, Ms Mehari was confident that the women-operated ride-hailing service is changing the dominance by promoting the inclusion of women in the industry.