Jack Ma invests in Kenya’s Taxify

Jack Ma (centre) in his recent visit to Kenya. With him is ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru (right) and University of Nairobi VC Peter Mbithi (left). Photo: Willis Awandu, Standard

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma will make his first investment in Kenya through taxi firm, Didi Chuxing, in a partnership with Taxify.

Didi, partly owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba company, will invest in Taxify, an Estonian online taxi firm with operations in Nairobi.

In a joint statement, the two companies said the deal was aimed at supporting Taxify’s expansion into its regional markets, especially Europe and Africa.

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“Taxify will utilise this partnership to solidify our position in core markets in Europe and Africa. We believe Didi is the best partner to help us become the most popular and efficient transport option in Europe and Africa,” said Markus Villig, founder and chief executive of Taxify, in a press note.

Jack Ma was recently in Kenya in the company of 38 Chinese billionaires. Asked whether he would invest in the country, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group remained non-committal, only saying he would help Kenyan products reach the global market.

Fierce price war

However, with this partnership, Mr Ma has a footing in Kenya. The investment by Didi in Taxify is expected to give it teeth to compete with its San Francisco-based rival, Uber.

Didi has vanquished Uber in China after a fierce price war that eventually saw it acquire Uber’s China operations in a mega-merger last year.

Didi has more than 400 million customers in 400 cities in China.