Ask any Ugandan about their frustrations with the public transport system and you will get a litany of grievances. The complaints rotate around unjustified delays caused by taxis scavenging for passengers, taxis that wind up as traps set up by gangs of thieves and that is just the tip of this troubling iceberg.
For Barbara Kirabo, it is the unreliability of the minivans popularly called “taxis” that frustrates her on her daily commute to work.
“You board a taxi promising to take you somewhere and guess what! You are left speechless when halfway your destination, they tell you the journey has ended and still take your money for that trip. No refunds, only insults from the taxi drivers in place of explanation,” she says.
These problems, while enormous and multi-pronged, have sent some people looking for solutions that tackle at least part of the problem.
“For us, our goal is to fill up the empty seats in private cars. It is wasteful that so many people are in need of transport and yet there are hundreds of private cars, congesting the road, speeding past taxi stages with unutilized seats,” Ernest Okot, co-founder Safari Share explains the solution. This, he said during the three-day Africa Transformative Mobility Accelerator (ATMA) at the Innovation Village this week.
Safari Share is an application built in 2019 as a solution for commuters who are looking for easy and accessible transport. Through the app, the entrepreneurs intelligently match private car owners to passengers taking the same route. This way, commuters are able to arrive faster at their destinations and cheaply. Currently, Safari Share is pitching the solution to company owners who do not have a unified form of transport for their employees. The app will ensure that for a cheaper cost, employees from various destinations arrive at work on time.
While one solution is targeting private car owners, Precious Turinawe wants to bring order to the convoluted minivan transport system. Her app, Easy Matatu, connects vetted taxi drivers to commuters that are looking to travel conveniently and comfortably. Currently, the app does 25 trips a day with 75 drivers on board.
This solution is much needed. However, the startup is grappling with getting drivers to embrace technology and the cashless system. The accelerator supported by the Climate For Development Lab (C4D) at the University of Nairobi in partnership with The Innovation Village enabled four startups from Uganda and four from Kenya to undergo a business training program and interact with key players in the transport sector such as Safe Boda and Tugende.
Turinawe now hopes this training can help her work through her business problems. This will possibly enable her and other entrepreneurs to effectively penetrate the market.