Mass transport apps to take Kenya by storm in 2019

The four companies - Uber, Little, Safiri Express and Egypt-based Swvl - are said to be readying their systems with possible launches starting as early as March this year.

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Four technology companies have trained their eyes on the Ksh 200 Billion (US$2B) mass transport sector in Kenya with seperate announcements that they will be launching app-based mass transport services within the first quarter of 2019. The four companies – Uber, Little, Safiri Express and Egypt-based Swvl – are said to be readying their systems with possible launches starting as early as March this year.

According to Chetenet, there are currently 30,000 Matatus (mini-buses) that get into Nairobi CBD with an average capacity of 25 passengers and spend about one and a half hours in traffic to ferry 750,000 Nairobians in and out of CBD during rush hour. “The matatus therefore ferry 1.5 million Kenyans every three hours during morning and evening rush hours. The rest of the human traffic are ferried in and out of Nairobi during off-peak hours,” Chetenet added.

“The matatus therefore ferry 1.5 million Kenyans every three hours during morning and evening rush hours. The rest of the human traffic are ferried in and out of Nairobi during off-peak hours,” – Chetenet.

These numbers show that there is indeed a customer base for the companies to provide alternative means of transportation for commuters.

To queue or to app?

Late last year, Reuters reported that Uber was set to roll out a new service in Kenya to help users book seats on mini-buses that ply the streets of the congested capital, if tests on the product in Egypt and Mexico prove successful.

Ever since the report various other players have taken an interest in the market; with Little, Uber’s competitor in the ride sharing app market in Kenya, announcing their intentions of foraying into the mass transport apps market.

“The Technology is ready. And we would like to start piloting it in a week or two. We are in discussion with NTSA for any pilot approvals,” said Kamal Budhabhatti, the founder of Craft Silicon, owners of Little.

“Mass transit in our city is rather chaotic and/or unstructured and not convenient to commuters. We have been collecting data for the past two years and this data shows that there is need for changes in the routes as currently designed,” added Budhabhatti.

Safiri Express also announced via a post on their website that they are set to launch in Nairobi, Kenya, stating that they are, a reliable, affordable and comfortable pre-booked shuttle service.

According to one of the three co-founders of Safiri Express Founder, Mbugua Njihia, the company did an active pilot last year for three months, starting from the month of January, whereby they managed to engage 35,000 people in Nairobi. This was done to test the market to see if people were ready for a product that looks at mobility different. With lessons learnt from the pilot the company is now set for its second pilot.

“Our second pilot will be a price sensitivity pilot and is scheduled to begin in March of 2019. With this pilot we are looking at what price points our customers will be comfortable with. We project that our prices will be slightly higher than traditional matatus but very much lower than traditional on-demand taxi services. So we are probably 1 quarter away from a full on market launch” added Njihia.

According to their website, Swvl has helped to revolutionise the transportation scene in Egypt, through providing a technology-based alternative to public transportation, a smart solution that solves the transportation equation, leading to helping more commute for less, with ease and comfort. The company has now announced that it is set to launch in Kenya through a social media post announcing that they are, “coming soon”.

Streamlining Kenya’s public transportation

According to Budhabhatti this new initiative by Little will be an attempt to help bring order to the chaotic world of Kenya’s public transport system and improving the transit experience for commuters.

“Many attempts have been made in the past to disrupt the mass transit platform in Kenya. These have failed in the past for several reasons. However, every attempt has made us learn something. We would like to give one more try to provide a solution that commuters want and will enjoy,” Budhabhatti continued.

One issue Nairobi’s County government has been trying to solve is that of matatus accessing the CBD, as they cause congestion. This is one of the issues Safiri Express is trying to solve, as the company offers point to point connections.

“With our point to point transit you do not have to connect to the CBD. We pick you from a designated point and using a bespoke route we drop you where you are going.” Concluded Njihia.

1 COMMENT

  1. Computerizing a chaotic system like Kenya’s public transport system will always be a challenge, and I doubt it is going to be portent for an App at this time. We have a good routing system but it’s not being followed properly by the operators. Operators regularly use wrong roads, don’t reach destination in a bid to avoid congestion. Fares are dictated by congestion and weather.

    Secondly, public transport can be insecure on some occasions.Commuters would not want to expose themselves openly as a “matatu-full of smartphone commuters”. It can easily attract the thugs who regularly waylay matatus.

    Thirdly, do you plan to create a USSD version of it? If not, many passengers will be left behind.

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