CA Timothy Kiluba looking at new business opportunities for Uber

The roll-out of Uber Direct and Uber Connect in South Africa during Covid-19 was Timothy’s brainchild.

Prior to the pandemic, Timothy Kiluba, the new models operations lead at Uber South Africa, was head of expansions, responsible for Uber’s strategy into new markets and territories. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a halt to all Uber expansion plans, as people were no longer moving around, there were no longer flights between countries, and his role required him to move in and out of many countries – which wasn’t possible anymore.

“I had to reposition myself from within the company as the new models operations lead,” he explains. “What the new role entailed was to look at new business opportunities. The biggest opportunity we saw at the time was in the delivery of goods. Because of movement restrictions, many were confined to their homes and there was an increased need for businesses to deliver goods to people.”

This led to Timothy being responsible for Uber’s strategies on deliveries: Uber launched two delivery products called Uber Connect in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda; and Uber Direct in South Africa. Timothy also led the successful scaling of UberGo in South Africa. For relatively new products to the market, the results were amazing.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Timothy came to South Africa to pursue his studies in chartered accounting. “The best thing you can do for yourself as an immigrant is to try to find a niche that isn’t over congested and to also find a qualification that is both marketable in South Africa and the rest of the world,” he says.

His love for numbers was one motivator, but the fact that once you have the qualification, you can do many things was what sealed the deal for him. His biggest challenge was gaining entry into the qualification.

“I went to high school in Zambia and obtained an O-level certificate, which didn’t give me entry to study BCom Accounting. I had to do at least four A-level subjects or the South African matric in order to qualify, I chose the latter,” Timothy says.

For Timothy, the fact that he gets to visit so many countries and work with very diverse nations and cultures is what makes his job very enriching. He says working for Uber also allows you to connect and work with teams globally, which gives you a view of the world from a different perspective.

In South Africa and on the continent Timothy believes that we have barely scratched the surface in terms of the market and that we have a lot of untapped opportunities.

He describes himself as an African at heart with a lot of dreams and aspirations, with the faith that we can get a lot done if we just put our minds to it. “I think the fact that I have a lot of grit is what makes me unique and that even in difficult times, I tend to push things until they get done.”

He adds that his vision and the ability to be flexible and reposition himself is what really makes him stand out, and companies he has worked for have picked up this. “In my experience, being able to just do the right thing, humility and a genuine love for people will take you far in terms of your long-term goals.”

When Timothy took the job at Uber, he says it was a great opportunity for him to try to help solve the massive transportation issue on the continent. He’s also big into giving back and about four years ago himself and a group of friends started an NGO called ‘Congo Ensemble’ (Congo Together) where they helped finance the building of a library catered for Grade 1-3 learners in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Kinshasa, DRC.

Apart from being a visionary, Timothy is married and a father to a four-year-old son. When he’s not putting together plans of mass expansion, he enjoys spending time with his son, which includes a few tumbles on the trampoline as well as catching up on his favourite sci-fi series.

Although he would love to be a CEO one day, Timothy has different ideas of what success means. “I think true fulfilment for me will always come from helping the people of this continent meet and exceed their potential,” he says. “That’s always been the goal for me.”