I am not going to spoil your day by talking about ZUPCO, the government’s public transportation solution. It used to be great, or so I’m told, now it sucks and likely will for the foreseeable future.
We don’t rely on it, we rely on private players with their beat up minibuses to move people to and fro. Lately, we’ve even accepted private players in beat up Honda Fits and Toyota FunCargos onto our streets. So it’s combis and mshikashika for the masses. Let’s call them combishikas.
We only tolerate the dangerously underserviced vehicles, rude drivers and rank marshals and the terrible sitting arrangements because they are cheap.
For the longest time, you only needed 50c for trips from town to most neighbourhoods. Yes, they would increase their prices during peak hours sometimes or when it rains (surge pricing, I guess) but for the most part, $1 could get you to town and back.
These days though, it’s now $1 per trip in the vast majority of neighbourhoods. That changes things. We need to look at this some more and see if the other transport options on the market make more sense now.
Yesterday we talked about how Bolt, a new ride-hailing platform, is on an aggressive push right now and is undercutting the competition. Could it or the other taxis be offering a better deal these days?
Let’s get this out of the way, most people are going to choose the cheaper option, convenience be damned. It’s simply because we actually earn very little in this country and we do not have the funds to splurge on rides.
So, I would argue that for ride-hailing to disrupt the combishikas, it would have to be cheaper.
I checked how much it would cost to go from town (Road Port) to Mt Pleasant (UZ) and the cheapest ride was on Bolt for $4. If one used combishikas, that would cost only $1, that’s 75% cheaper.
99% of people, unless it’s late or they have precious cargo are not going to pay a premium of $3. Then there is the data needed to use the ride-hailing apps too, making the ride-hailing option even more expensive.
The following scenarios makes it interesting though:
Going to a different neighbourhood
For most people, you will find that you have to go through town to get to other neighbourhoods. Which is particularly annoying when you have to go to a neighbourhood that is really close to yours by car but a little too far to walk.
If you live in Emerald Hill (by Gateway Primary there) and you want to go to Mt Pleasant (UZ) you would have to go via town and pay $2 using combishikas. The same trip would cost exactly the same using Bolt – $2.
Emerald Hill is right next to Mt Pleasant but the distance from Gateway Primary to UZ is a little too long to traverse by foot. No combishika connects the two neighbourhoods though and so you would be forced to waste time going via town.
So in this particular case, Bolt costs the same as combishikas, is much more convenient and comfortable as you’re picked up at your gate and dropped off exactly where you’re going, you don’t have to deal with rudeness and you save a lot of time on top of it all.
Who in their right mind would choose combishikas in such a case? Only those that are not aware that ride-hailing is slowly becoming affordable.
It gets even more interesting when you are not travelling alone. Ride-hailing apps will take up to four people.
If you’re going from town to UZ with three of your friends, it costs $4 using either ride-hailing or combishikas. Why would you choose combishikas?
Now imagine if there are multiple people connecting neighbourhoods. Ride-hailing becomes much cheaper.
Let’s use the Emerald Hill-UZ example again. If there are four of you, it would cost $2 using Bolt whilst it would cost $8 using combishikas.
So, ride-hailing comes out 75% cheaper whilst being the more convenient option. It’s a no-brainer. So, you can buy a data bundle for $1 to use to hail the ride and it would still be cheaper.
Combis’ days numbered?
It would appear so. Whilst combishikas are still cheaper for some trips, there are some scenarios where ride-hailing is cheaper.
There is a huge caveat though, Bolt is offering these low prices to gain marketshare and is likely to raise prices in the future.
I checked and for the Emerald Hill-UZ trip, Hwindi is charging $3.52 and inDrive is charging $4, although you can negotiate that down to $3.
So, if those are the fair prices we can expect in the long term then ride-hailing is more expensive when you’re travelling alone. However, it looks like when you’re a group, ride-hailing still wins.
It would cost 4 people $4 to go from Emerald Hill to UZ using inDrive whilst it would cost $8 using combishikas.
So, while I wouldn’t say combishikas’ days are numbered, ride-hailing apps have an opportunity to chip into their bread and butter.
Please spread this message to those that love going out to drink and then driving home drunk too. There are so many ride-hailing options, in Harare at least, and they are quite affordable when you’re a group.
In fact, let us all try to travel in groups whenever possible. We can’t all drive everywhere, traffic is becoming a nightmare in Harare. Let’s carpool, rideshare, take public transport and the like and free up the roads whilst saving the environment and our lungs at the same time.