(News investigators) Drivers are complaining of “unfair working arrangements” by Uber and Moove, and some are getting kicked off the platform.
A landscape photo of cars in a big parking lot in Lagos, Nigeria.
*Uber partnered with Nigerian vehicle-financing firm Moove to offer cars to drivers without a down payment. Drivers pay back the loans in daily installments.
*Some drivers say they don’t earn enough from the ride-hailing app to be able to pay the installments. Moove has impounded their cars for nonpayment of loans.
Uber driver Adams Ikemu Adakole diligently paid the daily installments on his car loan from Nigerian vehicle-financing firm Moove for three months. But in February 2023, his work came to a standstill due to fuel scarcity in Lagos. Adakole failed to pay his loan installments, and Moove issued him a warning over the phone in March. Shortly after, the company remotely locked and seized his vehicle, Adakole told Rest of World.
Though he immediately borrowed 30,000 naira ($65) from a lending app and made a partial payment to Moove, he hasn’t gotten his car back. “Fairmoney — the lending app — has been calling me nonstop to repay,” Adakole said, adding that he cannot repay the loan because he doesn’t have a car to drive for Uber anymore.
Moove is Uber’s official vehicle-financing partner in sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership aims to provide cars to drivers without any down payment — they are expected to pay off the vehicles in daily installments, out of their income from Uber. Drivers told Rest of World they did not earn enough from Uber to repay the loans. Some called it an “unfair arrangement,” because they said they had almost no money left after paying Moove and Uber. Some said Moove had confiscated their vehicles due to nonpayment of loan installments.
“You can get the car, but you will work through your nose and most likely will not be able to see the end of the payment before you are frustrated,” Adakole said.
In an email to Rest of World, Moove said it understood that Nigeria had faced a series of “unprecedented economic challenges” in recent months, and that it did not take decisions to impound vehicles lightly. “It is also important to recognize that we operate as a business, and sometimes this means we need to make tough decisions,” a company spokesperson told Rest of World. “Any vehicles that have been impounded were done so as a result of customers not hitting the new KPIs [key performance indicators] as part of the Moove Cares program.”
Under the Moove Cares program, launched to address the recent economic issues, the daily installments for some of the drivers have been reduced, the spokesperson said. Founded in 2020, Moove is backed by investors like British International Investment (BII) and the International Financial Corporation’s venture capital arm. Starting in September 2022, Moove purchased roughly 5,000 Suzuki vehicles — including models like Alto, Swift, Dzire, and S-Presso — to give out through a drive-to-own scheme for gig drivers in Nigeria and Ghana, who were willing to work exclusively with Uber.
The scheme hasn’t had a smooth run. The Suzuki S-Presso model reportedly fared poorly in at least one crash safety test. In addition, drivers claimed the offered cars were overpriced, and came with a difficult payment structure. Typically, a Suzuki S-Presso sells for 9.9 million naira ($21,500) in Nigeria. But drivers told Rest of World Moove sold them each car for up to 12 million naira ($26,042). In response, Moove said customers pay a total of 10.2 million naira ($22,101). “Customers pay 7.2 million naira in weekly installments over a 48-month period, and an additional 3 million naira to cover insurance costs, repairs, maintenance, and wear and tear,” the spokesperson said.
According to drivers, vehicles purchased through this partnership came with the condition that the driver would complete 12 trips daily, and spend about 12 hours a day, six days a week, on the Uber app. Despite the long hours, drivers said they find it hard to make money because the cars are hatchbacks, which places them in the cheaper Uber Go category. This means these drivers typically earn less than those who don’t use Moove’s cars. In February, Uber drivers who got their cars through Moove went on strike for days, protesting an increase in the daily repayment amount, among other issues.
“Paying 9,400 naira [$20] was already hard after Uber had taken off its 25% commission. There’s no way we could have survived that,” Sunday Oluwafemi, a Lagos driver whose car has been seized by Moove, told Rest of World. Some drivers have started working with multiple apps to afford the loan installments, but are still struggling to make enough money. Others have no way of making payments.
“They vowed not to return the cars until we pay our pending payment, but how do we do that if there’s no car to work with?” Oluwafemi said. He had owed Moove over 250,000 naira ($524) before the company seized his car. “I paid close to a million naira before I started defaulting,” said Oluwafemi, who now makes a living by selling kegs of palm oil in the Ayobo suburb.
In an emailed statement to Rest of World, Tope Akinwumi, Uber’s country manager in Nigeria, acknowledged that the company was aware of the dispute between Moove and the drivers. “In March this year, we were made aware of concerns raised by a small group of drivers operating on the Uber platform that [use] rent-to-own vehicles from Moove,” Akinwumi said. “Moove issued a public statement regarding the steps they were taking to address the concerns raised by drivers.”
Moove’s spokesperson said the company had reduced its daily loan installment amount to 6,400 naira.
Drivers told Rest of World that though Moove had made some changes — such as decreasing the installment amount, cutting the minimum required trips to 10, and allowing them to work 10 hours a day instead of 12 — it had failed to deliver on its promises to provide them with auto, health, and life insurance. The company had also not provided service maintenance and repairs for their vehicles, they said. “I asked them for a new battery when the one in my car couldn’t ignite it, but they refused,” Geshinde Kayode Abdul, a 47-year-old Uber driver from Lagos, told Rest of World. “I couldn’t work for days until I gathered money to get a new battery.”
Another driver, Afolabi Kareem, said he had spent 50,000 naira ($108) on a new compressor and condenser for his now-impounded car’s air-conditioning system. “Customers won’t enter the car because the AC was bad, and Moove refused to repair it, yet [were] charging me daily per usual,” Kareem said.
When Rest of World contacted Moove about its insurance and repair package, the company said third parties manage these services.