They have tried this before and it was all chaos. Now they have decided to try again and this time by giving two days notice and by making the first effective date for this new system to be a public holiday, a new public holiday in honour of an ousted president for that matter.
Anyway, I understand why the powers that be don’t want kombis in the city centre, everybody does. However, everybody also knows that their system will crumble for the simple reason that the system is non existent. That is of course, unless the system involves deploying soldiers to man the streets to effect the changes. We will see.
There could be a better way. I met a startup called Yego Innovision in Kigali and they are transforming a possibly more chaotic transport situation into a working system you can envy from wherever you are. Their solution is called Yegomoto. First let me define the moto, the centrepiece of the transport system in Rwanda’s urban centres.
Imagine the chaos
The urban transport system in Rwanda is not manned by kombis, not even mushikashika. Public transport is provided by motrcycle scooters they call motos. Now, the moto can only ferry one passenger at a time.
The Kigali population is not too different from Harare. Now recall how many kombis you see on the streets of Harare. Everywhere you turn you see a kombi. Now imagine each of all the 18 persons in each kombi as an individual passenger on their own respective moto taxi. Imagine how many motos you see.
Added to this frenzy is that there are no fixed rates to fixed locations/bus-stops. You negotiate the fair of each ride.
Yegomoto simply introduced a digital meter that connects to the internet and has GPS. Instead of haggling with the driver every time over the fair the meter calculates the fair based on the transport regulator rates in Rwanda. Added to this the Yegomoto can be paid for using electronic forms of money particularly mobile money.
That’s not the big deal
The big deal with the Yegomoto is the data it collects in real time. I went to their offices to see for myself what kind of data they have. At any given time the Yegomoto guys can know where each and everyone of the taxis that have their meter is. They know how much they are making, how hard the driver works and how they drive and a great of other stuff.
This data can then be used in formulating policy for this sector which has always been very difficult to formalise in Africa.
This needs money our local authorities don’t have
If Zimbabwean kombis had this kind of ‘big brother spyware’ they would self regulate just like the motos are doing in Kigali. Instead of the cops playing a dance called spiky with kombis they can use a blown up computer screen and follow each and every kombi. This will come at zero risk to passenger lives. Of course this will only work if violations are prosecuted transparently.
There is much too much to Yegomoto and I hope to get time to share with you’all about them. Right now the point I seek to make is that what the city councils of Harare and Bulawayo have announced are weak solutions because they have not been worked out. They need to first invest in research and re-imagine a new system in a totally new way.
This kind of investment they cannot afford right now considering that they are failing to provide clean water. Let them go and solve that higher priority issue first and stop window dressing the public transport system which is functioning on top of a network of pot holes. Come on, after water please work on our road networks.
Yegomoto so far has invested USD5.5 million and they look into investing USD12 million before they spread to other cities and towns in Kigali. That is the scale of investment that is needed to introduce a functioning urban transport system that has buy in from all concerned: commuters, transport operators and city planners.
This investment has gone into developing the meter and the software that powers it biut more importantly it has gone into training drivers on road safety and importance of adherence to regulations etc. Yego does not take on unregistered drivers and they have a strict code. The drivers agree to this because Yego gives them benefits they didn’t have before (will follow this up in another article hopefully).
What data is driving our city authorities’ proclamations?
The bedrock of the Yegomoto solution is software and data. Have our authorities attempted to understand the data before proffering a solution? In the case of Yegomoto, it took them 18 months of research, 1500 rides around the city and more than 1000 interviews with passengers and drivers before they started thinking of a solution.
Ultimately Yego is a payments platform and a transport and delivery platform. But they build to this end layer by layer. I am not convinced our city authorities or whoever is calling the shots know what they are doing. Get out of this space and let startups solve this one.
Would Yego come to Zimbabwe?
An emphatic yes. I did not need to convice the Yego Innovision CEO Karanvir Singh about the opportunity here. As soon as I explained how everything was converging: graduation to cashlessness, a government that is desperate for foreign investment, growing internet penetration etc he was already eager to come in and talk to a few people I thought could be a good starting point.
Kombi is the informal name of minibuses in Zimbabwe. This is usually given to the 18 seater type which are privately owned but used for public transport in the country. They are the most popular form of public transport in Zimbabwe a result of the... Read More About Kombi
Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second largest city. Its location was selected by the last Matebele king, King Lobengula. Bulawayo used to be one of the country's most attractive cities and a major transport hub for Southern Africa until Zimbabwe entered a period of economic depression in... Read More About Bulawayo
Harare formerly Salisbury is the capital of Zimbabwe. It is the seat of Government, the industrial hub and commercial centre for Zimbabwe. The city was founded by the Cecil John Rhodes-led Pioneer Column in 1890 and named Salisbury. The name was only changed to Harare... Read More About Harare