More than once, Uber has gotten me to where I need to be.
For me, they have been reliable and certainly less expensive than taxis.
Currently, I’m traveling in Ghana to teach social entrepreneurship, alongside Jean-Patrick Ehouman, one of the social entrepreneurs I recently wrote about. In Ghana, Uber recently launched their service in its capital, Accra, not too long ago. There are not many Uber drivers as of yet in Accra, so it takes longer to get a ride than it does to catch a taxi.
Another hiccup for Uber in Accra is that many roads don’t have names, as the locals know where places are by building landmarks. This creates a problem with GPS systems, one of the cornerstones of Uber’s business model.
And in Accra, paying through credit card is relatively unpopular. No one wants to give the company their card information. So the primary payment method is through cash.
An Uber Alternative in Côte d’Ivoire
In Côte d’Ivoire, there is an alternative that riders take. It’s an Uber-like service that has a similar but different model.
The basis of the model is the same: you request a ride and the service sends you a driver. But the difference between the two is what happens next.
When you get in the car, the service sends an SMS text to 10 people you have identified in advance. The service will automatically text that list of people your location, should you not turn up at your destination at the designated time.
By focusing more on security, especially as protesters have violently attacked Uber drivers in protest of Uber’s international expansion, the ride service gains a competitive edge. This security-focused model is a great business model that fits to the local environment.
Social Entrepreneurs Must Adapt to Succeed
As Uber is quickly learning, you can’t just expect that the solution to a problem in one country is going to work in another.
GPS systems, credit card payments, and driver availability—the cornerstones of Uber’s model—just do not mesh well with Accra’s environment. In fact, Uber’s solution may have spawned a problem instead, resulting in the development of a security-focused ride service in Côte d’Ivoire.
In order to succeed, certain problems must be tackled and solved by adapting to the local environment.Certain problems must be tackled and solved by adapting to the local environment. Click To Tweet
For example, in the United States, electricity is a given and may not be a pressing problem.
But in Ghana, it is so erratic and unpredictable that depending on it ensures major and even life-threatening problems. Thus, social entrepreneurs in Africa are working to reach and provide utilities to very rural places, where there are no roads, no electricity, and no running water.
Another example is girls’ education. Social entrepreneurs all over the globe are working to find ways to help young girls stay in school. But there are local factors to consider when tackling the issue of girls’ education.
In Ghana, girls stay home during their menses, which can lead to them falling behind and, eventually, dropping out. When social entrepreneurs provided menstruation supplies, it reduced girls’ absences from school by more than half.
At CLU, we develop social entrepreneurs as change-makers who learn that, though each problem is different, a solution can be found.
In order to find these solutions, social entrepreneurs must adapt to the local environment in order to succeed. Once you adapt, you can succeed past any competitor, even giants like Uber.