An-Nisa provides a women-only alternative to taxi ride sharing in Kenya

When Mehnaz Sarwar discovered that many women who used cabs in Nairobi grappled with the thought of jumping into vehicles with unfamiliar men, the budding entrepreneur went on to develop a taxi-hailing app specially designed for women which has now been unveiled in Nairobi, Kenya.

The app called An-Nisa (an Arabic word in the 4th chapter of the Quran which means ‘women’) was launched to empower women taxi drivers in a male-dominated area, with 60 female drivers who would operate everywhere in the major towns.

It is estimated that female drivers make up just three percent of the 12, 000 drivers registered by online cab-hailing applications. And while most of the male taxi drivers are, of course, safe, many women simply feel less vulnerable with a female driver. An-Nisa hopes to get more women, not just in their cabs, but also behind the wheel.

“I was always uncomfortable being in a car with someone I didn’t know, especially if it was a male. So I was always in search of a female driver. I realized that a lot of ladies are still in that position,” An-Nisa Cabs Founder Mehnaz Sarwar was quoted by local newspaper Standard Digital to have said.

“It is a source of empowerment for those ladies and at the same time, it makes a safer option for women who are not comfortable being driven by men, maybe for religious reasons or safety concerns,” she said. Yet Sarwar did not rule out extending the services to men in the future. “As we go along, we will put in the option if the need arises,” she concluded in the interview.

An-Nisa Founder Mehnaz Sarwar

The week old An-Nisa driving app made specifically for women and children riders, has now registered nearly 100 drivers. There are over 200 women taxi drivers in the city and more partners whose vehicles are operating in the cab industry.

“These riders tell us they prefer women driving them because women are careful, neat and understanding,” Co-founder and marketer Farida Khamis said in an interview, adding that there are some female drivers who have been desiring to do taxi business but with preference for female riders.

In the last three years, at least a dozen online cab services have launched in Kenya to meet the changing needs of commuters. The companies which run the applications take between 15 and 25 percent of the money drivers make on their trips. An-Nisa only takes 10 percent commission, which is low compared to the others. Founder Mehnaz Sarwar said she invested Sh1 million ($10,000) into the startup app which was launched on 9 September, 2018.