Ride-hailing apps now cheaper than combis and mshikashika in these scenarios, revolution on the way?

Leonard Sengere Avatar
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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.

Multiple passengers

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.

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  1. wrong conclusion

    definitely a paid article
    the caveat is the that this is temporary offer
    for all we know in 6months it’s double
    I’m all for lower fares but you can’t base that on a special
    furthermore the combi has the bulk factor where it’s cheaper to move 10 Vs 1 person so they can outcompete
    what we really need is a bus service the one ring to rule them all

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I talked about the Bolt prices likely going up in the future. However, I then showed how much the other ride-hailing platforms that have been operating for years are charging. Even with those prices, which I said are the fair prices we can expect in the long term, ride-hailing is already cheaper in some scenarios, namely connecting neighbourhoods and travelling in groups of four.

      Bolt will not be able to price above what they charge. So, even in the long term, even when they double prices, ride-hailing in groups when connecting neighbourhoods will still be cheaper.

      You talk about the combi having cheaper costs per person. That’s true. However, that has nothing to do with what the passenger pays. So, unless and until they revert back to 50c, ride-hailing will continue making sense in some scenarios.

      I also agree that a bus service would be excellent, a train and subway service would be even better but those are wishes. We don’t have any of that. In the article we were talking about what’s currently on the ground.

      Oh, and by the way, it’s not a paid article. Why would you conclude that? I think the “It’s positive so it’s gotta be paid” thinking is a bit tired now. There are some positive things that happen in Zimbabwe and we can talk about them and if regular people stand to save a buck or two, all the more reason why we would talk about it.

      1. Longhirst

        As usual, you sir are on point and the fact that you put the other players available against each other and let the better priced one speak shows true sportsmanship. Now i just have to get used to saying “im waiting for my Bolt”

      2. wrong conclusion

        let’s see what market forces play.they may revert back to 50c
        this market is very tricky. we clearly have a logistics problem
        in a cash strapped populace. we should definitely revisit in 2 months.i wrongfully assumed that it was a paid article since the bolt one then this in succession.someone has to pay the bills
        the other issue we all informalised

  2. Nitpik

    If they market as aggressively as they should they could capture a significant market share especially amongst the north of samora early adopters. Was hoping we’d have a local player lead the charge. Bolt has pedigree and money to burn. Thing is this is a lucrative market. Cash rich data rich platform that can be used to build a logistics solution that is modern. It’s an interesting sector, great article Mukoma Lenny.

  3. Walk for health

    Folks don’t get spoiled. I am not in Zimbabwe, my spoiled neighbour works from home and he has a car which he mainly uses to go to the gym 2km away. According to google; distance from Harare Roadport to University of Zimbabwe is 8.3km. 8km is the to and from distance I walk from grocery shopping. When in Harare I walk distances from CBD to Halsteds in Waterfalls. When I was at UZ, I used regularly to walk from Mt pleasant into the CBD. My doctor actually recommends that for walking as an exercise I should walk for at least 30 minutes

    1. Pirro

      I guess the one factor you aren’t taking into account is that of time. If u’re rushing to a meeting or work you won’t have the luxury of strolling to your destination.

      1. Tin

        I used to walk 6-8km to or from work, depending on missions or changes of scenery, just about every day. It definitely got my weight and sleeping under control. If you want to do it, you gotta plan your time a little more for it to work out. For sudden time sensitive issues, there’s really no way around it. You have to catch a ride. Otherwise, walking responsibly (why walk at 8pm? why take the most congested road, sucking up fumes?…) brings almost nothing but benefits. Try apps like google fit for counting steps. It can encourage you to keep up your progress

    2. Anonymous

      Some people might not be familiar of shopping bags on wheels that can going to the shopping trips by walking instead of driving or taking transit.

      Example https://verk.store/eng_pl_Shopping-trolley-wheeled-shopping-bag-solid-3288_2.jpg

      1. Anonymous

        now imagine dragging that through the dusty & potholed streets of Zimbabwe.

  4. Pirro

    Quite an interesting read, quick question though, how do I go about being a Bolt or Indrive driver on a weekend basis?

    1. Anonymous

      It is not worth it. Research more on it

  5. Harris

    Interesting article thanks. I see a lot of advertising popping up for Rida, I’m not sure if this is even operating here? They certainly advertise a lot and if it is operating it would be interesting to have this added to your assessment. It would also be interesting to have your commentary on the quality of the rides if you have experienced them personally?

  6. Tafadzwa Mawere

    As a business person I would not be likely to join a ride-hailing company to partner as it is not possible to make a profit and survive with that minimum cost.
    For example; the UZ to Emarald Hill example of $2 overlooks a lot of factors like fuel costing on average $1.50/litre so if you factor in driver time/costs plus fuel and maintainance you will see that this will eventually hit the dirt like Vaya.
    Most likely the driver to be able to pick you up is coming from somewhere nearby and after dropping you will go back to somewhere nearby again(all this is fuel and time) at most these guys will operate so long as the vehicle is in good condition up to when they can no longer be able to service it or maintain it as the cost of parts and service kits have gone up over time.

    The ride-hailing company does not own its cars but offer a platform that connects a driver and a potential client then charges a commission on the fare so it is not feasible for long term. *Bolt for example just offered to waiver commission for the first six months of its launch but after that it will certainly want to make money hence rates will change.

    This is not a future solution it’s just taking advantage of a bad situation while it lasts.

  7. Anonymous

    Lets not forgot Uber disrupted the taxi companies by forgoing paying the drivers fair compensation for their time, expertise, vehicle expenses and also completely ignoring cutting out the need to pay drivers benefits such as holiday pay, retirement benefits, sick leave, workers compensation etc. Drivers of in Urber era as in other gig work are worse off than the formal employment alternatives disrupted by Uber.

    Ride hail is meant to get of formal taxi transportation and enrich the ride hailing companies at the expense of the drivers.

  8. M

    When you pay $1 instead of $4, you save 300% and not 75% , that’s my take!

  9. Dyna for the win

    Leonard we need you
    the comments section has some valid points
    which is why I talked the 10 to 1 ratio
    it may not be convenient to the consumer but it sure does make more financial sense
    my 2 cents they need to take these combos off the roads and propose a minimum dyna clipper entry with this way
    we cut the traffic and subsidise the cost
    plus we now have a safer vehicle whereby these drivers wings are clipped
    if they equipped with GPS tracking the wait times can be reduced
    as in the old days rixi taxis are for the northern ssuburbs . the market they cater for cannot be upscaled purely because of cost
    I’m not an expert
    ps I’m open to try this experiment with you

  10. CyberGhost

    Very nice & Interesting article, I’m gonna download bolt& experiment with Ride hailing for the first time,But Mukoma Leonard, honestly you mean to say that it’s too long a distance to walk from Gateway Primary to UZ (about 3KM). Aren’t health experts encouraging physical activity? Don’t Tell me about time coz I know walking 3KM won’t take much time, Also keep in mind the safety issues with these ride-hailings as well as Combishikas, I’ve seen that sometimes (ceteris paribus)you’re safer & much better off walking, especially these short distances than risking being in a Combishika.It surprises me to see an overweight or obese individual boarding a Combishika or driving, whilst embarking on a 5KM trip to the Grocery store whilst they have the time i mean let’s also embrace walking where it is appropriate & safer to do so,Also let’s fully understand that we’re almost always “risking” by being in Combishika,of course there’s need for balance,coz Combishika sometimes serves the purpose but I will definitely try this ride hailing experience and see how it goes& I’m sure I won’t have to deal with smelling armpits,stale breaths,rude chaps, overweight ladies,mutilated notes ….as I endure these in Combishikas

  11. Vida

    Do inDrive or Bolt have ride-share? This could be a good deal for drivers to earn more USD, and for people who detest getting kombis and mshikashika an affordable solution.

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