A tech solution for making public transport less ‘hectic’


This text was first revealed by Renew Capital

Normally, a easy commute in a matatu, the native title for 14-seat public minibuses in Uganda’s capital of Kampala, isn’t really easy or nice. Getting from level A to level B includes lengthy queues and delays which might price commuters hours of their time. Because of the informality of the transportation sector, matatus in Uganda function with little regulation. And the identical applies to different main cities on the continent.

Straightforward Matatu is considered one of funding agency Renew Capital’s portfolio firms that’s working to unravel this city mobility problem via a tech-enabled answer. The Straightforward Matatu app permits commuters to e book and pay for a seat prematurely, lowering wait time and minimising delays. The corporate goals to make Uganda’s public transportation system safer and extra dependable. It additionally plans to deliver their answer to different African cities with related issues.

On this interview, CEO and co-founder of Straightforward Matatu, Lema Carl Andrew, explains how the corporate was began and shares his ideas on the way forward for transportation in Africa.

* This interview has been shortened for size and readability.

What received you interested by fixing the challenges of public transportation in a spot like Uganda?

Initially, Straightforward Matatu was began to unravel a easy transportation downside. How do I get to work on time? How do I get again dwelling predictably? I reside in Entebbe, which is situated 34 kilometres from the town, and I’ve to commute out and in of the town each day. For anybody who lives that far out, touring is extraordinarily hectic. To get to work on time, it’s important to be up earlier than the first light, or you’ll be late. You additionally must take care of lengthy queues and actually must battle on the bus terminal simply to get a seat as a result of there aren’t sufficient matatus throughout rush hours.

Entebbe to Kampala is a fairly simple route. Straightforward Matatu began by creating this easy route with a single matatu that would depart within the morning at 6am, and arrive within the metropolis simply earlier than 7am, giving the commuter ample time to do a connecting journey to work. Within the night, you’d have the choice for the 5pm matatu that will get you dwelling at 7pm on the newest. Quickly after we began, we shortly noticed that the issue we had been fixing was not distinctive to us. It was widespread to just about everybody that lived greater than 10 kilometres away from the town. Commuting to work was a problem, and returning dwelling was much more hectic.

What gave you the concept to create a tech-enabled platform to unravel these transportation challenges?

Earlier than we began Straightforward Matatu, I had lately traveled to Kigali, Rwanda. Kigali just about had transportation like each different African metropolis – chaotic, harmful and unsafe. However a number of months earlier, the federal government had intervened and partnered with a neighborhood tech startup that supplied a fee answer that helped to deal with the issue. Touring in Kigali grew to become environment friendly and easy. Again in Kampala and seated behind a matatu at 9pm, my co-founders and I had been reflecting on how troublesome it was to get again dwelling from the town. What was purported to be a half-hour journey took about three hours. It dawned on us that everybody is digitising totally different components of the financial system. On the time, there was an organization known as SafeBoda, that was digitising boda-bodas (motorbike taxis). Uber had come into Kampala about three years earlier and had modified the best way individuals used cabs, however nonetheless, nothing was being carried out concerning the matatus, which had been just about transporting about 80% of all commuters within the metropolis.

Having seen what occurred in Kigali, and since I’m a software program engineer and I had labored with a few startups in East Africa, we launched Straightforward Matatu. It’s larger than simply the app. Now our mission is to repair public transport in Africa’s cities, utilizing technology. This seems to be totally different in numerous African cities. In Kampala proper now, for instance, we’re utilizing 14-seater minibus taxis to offer dependable, secure and clear rides. However should you go to Nairobi, it’s a unique story. They’ve 30-seater matatus. In Tanzania, there are dala-dalas, that are even in worse situation than most different African cities. That’s the mission we’re on. That’s what retains us energised.

Who’s your goal market?

Ladies are our greatest person demographic making up eight in 10 of our repeat clients. That is due to the comfort and security that our service offers to them. With our service, clients can e book a seat and have it ready for them once they go away work and get to the terminal. With Straightforward Matatu we vet the drivers, prepare them and onboard them. The app offers customers with the title and cellphone variety of the motive force.

The second demographic that we’re impacting is the matatu drivers themselves, who’re primarily male. Previous to working for Straightforward Matutu, most drivers had been undereducated and untrained and operated in an especially demanding atmosphere with each day targets that they needed to meet to have the ability to get a wage. Our enterprise mannequin goals to flip this as we now interact them as drivers and use our platform to drag clients which makes their jobs simpler, particularly throughout peak hours.

What are essentially the most important adjustments and challenges you’ve seen in mobility and transport in Africa over the past 10 years?

Over the past 10 years, African cities have grown very quickly. Kampala itself has develop into more and more congested. The town is bulging on the seams and the transportation infrastructure can’t maintain that. It’s projected that our cities are going to proceed to develop over the subsequent 10 to twenty years whereas the governmental response in lots of circumstances doesn’t seem like it is going to catch as much as meet the demand. What I imagine is required are partnerships between the general public sector and personal gamers to additional develop the transportation infrastructure.

What do you assume the non-public sector in Africa, particularly because it pertains to transportation will seem like in 10 years?

My hope is that we’ll have extra blended modes of transportation that make it simpler for commuters to get to work and get again dwelling and have a well-balanced life. Though casual transit is just not perfect, it helps hundreds of thousands of livelihoods. Blended modes of transport that assist commuters transfer about are distinctive to Africa. It’s actually unlikely we’re going to have subways far and wide in a decade. We’ll nonetheless have individuals sharing 14-seater buses, whether or not they’re electrical or not. We’ll nonetheless have individuals hopping on boda-bodas. There may be nothing inherently fallacious with these casual modes of transportation so long as they’re environment friendly they usually work hand in hand with the extra conventional mass transit choices.

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