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‘Safeboda’ From Uganda Has Been Recently
Launched In Kenya After Very Successful Trial

Coastweek -- The tech revolution continues to disrupt the way things are done and when handled well actually adds value to our lives as well as to the products we then use at a very low cost, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

We have the thunderous accolades that the locally grown MPesa has had and continues to have despite its relative maturity.

Tech products are providing solutions that were thought to be not possible just a few short years ago.

Most successful applications are those that answer need that have volume.

They cater for what many people need to make their lives convenient.

However, because they disrupt whenever they are introduced, they meet with a lot of resistance either through regulatory barriers or by protests and destruction.

When MPesa was launched in Kenya, the banking industry was up in arms and asked the banking regulator to stop its operations till there were some rules to guide how it would operate – and in the process stifle its potential by straight jacketing it within the confines of conventional banking which relied on bricks and mortar.

This was not agreed to and that disruption, that started in 2007, continues to create waves as it offers opportunities for many other applications to run on its backbone.

The other notable disruption that has hit the country but came from outside is the ride hailing application or service called Uber.

Started in the United States, it has spread to many countries and wherever it was launched it met with resistance from the locally established taxi services whether individually operated or run as companies.

It continues to spread and redefine itself as it also faces protests in many jurisdictions.

Vehicles were burnt in some instances and in others, legal challenges were thrown up challenging and outlawing its mode of operation and this denying the company the opportunity to transform the way people live.

In our region, it went through all that but eventually things have settled – relatively !

As happens often, our copying experts surfaced and there are a few locally developed variants of ride hailing apps that will obviously undercut and challenge the Uber model.

However, whilst taking away a bit of market share, they have not very seriously dented the business especially because of first mover advantage, Uber created a reasonable size client base that has seen it weather the challenges thrown at it and still continue to grow. It also has the advantage of being a global app and many of its users from elsewhere will use it whilst in this country without batting an eyelid.

The ride hailing process has expanded to cover other modes of transport that is popular in the country including boda boda.

Whilst some of the ride hailing apps have gone into the delivery service space where motorbikes can be hailed to deliver takeaways, parcels, letters and so forth, others have gone into the hailing of boda boda as forms of personal transport.

Taxify has its boda service whilst Uber has gone for delivery through Uberbites.

However, a new kid has come on the block and I expect that they will cause quite some disruption in the boda boda hailing scene.

Safeboda from Uganda has recently launched in Kenya after a successful trial and operation in Uganda.

It differs fundamentally from what we have in Kenya with Taxify and other bike hailing arrangements in that its service is premised on certain promises – the key one being safety – hence the name Safe boda.

The boda boda operators are not signed up or allowed to operate until they have undergone extensive training on road safety, first aid and customer car.

They also carry all the necessary safety including spare helmets and reflective jackets and more important for the ladies, they also have hair nets which will make it easier for the ladies to wear the helmets.

They are all kitted out in the standard livery of the organisation which is bright orange and they have similar distinction on the bikes.

This is very different from the current boda boda model where all that the current riders in Kenya do is to belong to a SACCO and that then” legitimises” their operations.

I can foresee the rather uncouthly organised local riders taking to the streets and protesting at the better organised and in my view much more preferable Safeboda riders and trying to force them to come down to their lower standard of operation – but I prefer to be happily surprised by their not protesting and instead raise their game to the same level and offer properly safety trained, customer care focussed riders.

I did write a month or so ago that we needed to professionalise our passenger transport industry starting with the boda boda and tuk tuk riders through the matatu drivers to bus operators.

We here have an operator who is doing it voluntarily and we should engage them and partner with them to design and test models that will work for the boda boda sector as the start to an overhaul of the passenger transport industry.

As Kachumbari says, copying a good thing is the height of flattery !

 

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