CanGo Africa, formerly SafeMotos, Calls It Quits After 6 Years


CanGo Africa (formerly SafeMotos and not related to SafeBoda and SafeCar), the Rwandan-founded Uber for Africa with operations in Rwanda, Central Africa and DR Congo is wrapping up its operations in both countries after failing to raise follow on funding for its operations.

Launched as SafeMotos in 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda by Barrett Nash and Peter Kariuki, and rebranded to to bolster its super app ambitions in 2019, the firm cites harsh business realities of doing business in Central Africa and lack of enough capital to sustain the firm’s operations and growth in both markets.

“Peter and I have the unfortunate news to share with you that today is the last day of SafeMotos/CanGo operations,” wrote Nash, notifying investors on turbulence at the firm. “December was an incredible month for us. We reached trip volume of more than 4,000 trips per day, grew by 260% month on month and were achieving the sub metrics on user retention, resilience to increased pricing, low customer acquisition costs and high brand awareness that reaffirmed our deep belief that Kinshasa and Central Africa are ideal markets for a super app. We achieved traction results since launch that were on par or better to highly successful comparison companies throughout the developing world and did it at a fraction of the unit economic price. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find the funds to leverage this success into increased runway for the company.”

Peter added that CanGo aimed at closing a 1M USD SAFE by the end of 2019 to give us runway for a 3-5M USD Series A in Q2 / Q3 2020 but failed to do so making it harder for it to run. Though the firm had announced a $1.1M raise, it did not translate into checks being written. With just $180,000 in hand, CanGo knows it cannot run until a healthy Series A round.

“We have a choice to change strategy: fire everyone and bootstrap with a brand new pivot, or close. We tried the bootstrap strategy in Rwanda: while we achieved positive unit economics, we weren’t able to tell a story of traction to leverage more funds. Kinshasa is among the most hostile environments on earth, it needs proper capital to make a company successful here. This is not a shoestring environment,” Nash wrote. “We’ve decided to make the challenging decision to stop while there is still enough money in the bank to pay our employees what we owe them. We apologize to you all for failing in our mission in making a valuable and disruptive service that reorients the quality of life and access to essential services for the people of Central Africa.”

Nash and Peter were roommates in Kigali before launching SafeMotos and would often take motorcycle taxis to meet at their favourite bars. They’d always jump off and go ‘wow, that guy almost killed me’ and as aspiring entrepreneurs at the time they decided to do something about it: make motorcycle taxis safe to use. They made a pitch deck, were approached by a startup accelerator, managed to get some seed money and were off to the races.