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Feres, one of Ethiopia’s biggest and most successful ride-hailing companies, has quietly expanded its operations in East Africa, where it’s taking on global and continental ride-hailing giants such as Bolt, Uber, and Safe Boda.

The company which scaled its operations in Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda under the brand name “Faras” (meaning “horses” in Swahili), has already garnered over 500,000 Android downloads across all four nations since launching at the end of 2022.

The ride-hailing firm is also providing its signature loyalty programs, such as cashback, bonuses, and Feres Miles, which aided its rise in Ethiopia.

In Kenya, Fara aims to align its operations with driver interests at the core of its business. Faras General Manager Allan Mutwiri stated to Citizen TV in December 2022 that they have opted to charge lower commissions at 15% per ride. They also intend to hire 10,000 drivers by early 2023, having already registered 6,400 drivers on the platform two months ago.

Feres entered Kenya at a time when drivers have been protesting the high commissions charged by digital companies. In November 2022, Uber and Bolt were forced to adjust their service fees to 18% from 25% and 20%, respectively, after a public outcry by Kenyan taxi operators. A new ride-hailing law in the East African nation has also capped the service fee ride-hailing companies can charge at 18%.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, ride-hailing startups like SafeBoda and Easy Matatu are changing the semi-informal transport ecosystems. When SafeBoda launched in 2015, it was the first ride-hailing operator in Uganda and has been the dominant player ever since. Feres has also onboarded boda-boda’s, motorcycle taxis, on its platform in Uganda and Tanzania.

Incorporated in Ethiopia in February 2020, Feres quickly rose to challenge RIDE’s market hegemony, partly due to the comparatively lower fees. In addition to offering riders more freedom, Feres built its name in the sector backed by a massive digital marketing campaign and rearward programs for passengers.

RIDE, the other leader in Ethiopia’s ride-hailing sector, has also expanded its service to Djibouti in mid-2022.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.

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