Egyptian Minibus Ride-Hailing Firm Raises $42M For Nigerian Expansion, Competing With Uber

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
traffic problem minibus ride-hailing firm
Rush hour traffic fills the 6 October bridge over the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt. Photo – AP – Hassan Ammar

Uber launched a minibus service in Cairo in December 2018 but its stiffest local competitor has raised $42 million to expand into another of Uber’s major African markets.

Egyptian firm Swvl is planning to begin operations in a new market — Lagos, Nigeria. Swvl already runs minibus services in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, and in Nairobi, Kenya, according to Moneyweb.

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The $42 million investment represents the largest round of funding for a tech startup in Egypt to date, Bloomberg reports.

Participation came from venture capital firms including Sweden’s Vostok Ventures, Dubai-based Middle East VC fund BECO Capital, China’s MSA and Endeavor Catalyst, based in New York.

Swvl is essentially a premium alternative to public transportation, which in Egypt is considered unsafe and unreliable. It is also cheaper than using a taxi.

In Cairo, 23 million inhabitants and an overburdened public transport system created opportunities for Swvl, Uber and U.A.E.-based Careem to launch bus-booking services.

More than 4 million daily commuters use the Cairo Metro, which is half the size of the Washington, D.C. Metro and carries four times as many passengers, the World Bank reported.

Cairo also has one of the lowest numbers of buses per million residents, according to the report.

Swvl expects to use the funding to expand the company into two or three new African cities by the end of 2019, Ventureburn reports.

Lagos is earmarked as the next market the minibus ride-hailing firm expects to target. Uber operates its ride-hailing service in Lagos and Abuja.

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Despite being only 2 years old, the Series C investment brings the startup’s total funding to around $80.5 million, according to CrunchBase.

In April 2018 Swvl announced a successful Series A funding round of $8 million — the biggest round of funding for a tech startup in Egypt to that point, Forbes reported.

BECO Capital, investor DiGAME and global venture capital fund Silicon Badia led the Series A with Raed Ventures, Arzan VC, Oman Technology Fund, and chairman of EDventure Holdings Esther Dyson also taking part.

The transport startup then went on to raise a Series B round in November 2018. CrunchBase reports it was $20 million.

To assist in its expansion plans, the Egyptian startup plans to open a research and development facility in Germany, Menabytes reports.