Coastweek -- The
tech revolution continues to disrupt the way things are done and
when handled well actually adds value to our lives as well as to
the products we then use at a very low cost,
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
We have the
thunderous accolades that the locally grown MPesa has had and
continues to have despite its relative maturity.
Tech products are
providing solutions that were thought to be not possible just a
few short years ago.
applications are those that answer need that have volume.
They cater for what
many people need to make their lives convenient.
they disrupt whenever they are introduced, they meet with a lot
of resistance either through regulatory barriers or by protests
When MPesa was
launched in Kenya, the banking industry was up in arms and asked
the banking regulator to stop its operations till there were
some rules to guide how it would operate – and in the process
stifle its potential by straight jacketing it within the
confines of conventional banking which relied on bricks and
This was not agreed
to and that disruption, that started in 2007, continues to
create waves as it offers opportunities for many other
applications to run on its backbone.
The other notable
disruption that has hit the country but came from outside is the
ride hailing application or service called Uber.
Started in the
United States, it has spread to many countries and wherever it
was launched it met with resistance from the locally established
taxi services whether individually operated or run as companies.
It continues to
spread and redefine itself as it also faces protests in many
Vehicles were burnt
in some instances and in others, legal challenges were thrown up
challenging and outlawing its mode of operation and this denying
the company the opportunity to transform the way people live.
In our region, it
went through all that but eventually things have settled –
As happens often,
our copying experts surfaced and there are a few locally
developed variants of ride hailing apps that will obviously
undercut and challenge the Uber model.
taking away a bit of market share, they have not very seriously
dented the business especially because of first mover advantage,
Uber created a reasonable size client base that has seen it
weather the challenges thrown at it and still continue to grow.
It also has the advantage of being a global app and many of its
users from elsewhere will use it whilst in this country without
batting an eyelid.
The ride hailing
process has expanded to cover other modes of transport that is
popular in the country including boda boda.
Whilst some of the
ride hailing apps have gone into the delivery service space
where motorbikes can be hailed to deliver takeaways, parcels,
letters and so forth, others have gone into the hailing of boda
boda as forms of personal transport.
Taxify has its boda
service whilst Uber has gone for delivery through Uberbites.
However, a new kid
has come on the block and I expect that they will cause quite
some disruption in the boda boda hailing scene.
Safeboda from Uganda
has recently launched in Kenya after a successful trial and
operation in Uganda.
fundamentally from what we have in Kenya with Taxify and other
bike hailing arrangements in that its service is premised on
certain promises – the key one being safety – hence the name
The boda boda
operators are not signed up or allowed to operate until they
have undergone extensive training on road safety, first aid and
They also carry all
the necessary safety including spare helmets and reflective
jackets and more important for the ladies, they also have hair
nets which will make it easier for the ladies to wear the
They are all kitted
out in the standard livery of the organisation which is bright
orange and they have similar distinction on the bikes.
This is very
different from the current boda boda model where all that the
current riders in Kenya do is to belong to a SACCO and that
then” legitimises” their operations.
I can foresee the
rather uncouthly organised local riders taking to the streets
and protesting at the better organised and in my view much more
preferable Safeboda riders and trying to force them to come down
to their lower standard of operation – but I prefer to be
happily surprised by their not protesting and instead raise
their game to the same level and offer properly safety trained,
customer care focussed riders.
I did write a month
or so ago that we needed to professionalise our passenger
transport industry starting with the boda boda and tuk tuk
riders through the matatu drivers to bus operators.
We here have an
operator who is doing it voluntarily and we should engage them
and partner with them to design and test models that will work
for the boda boda sector as the start to an overhaul of the
passenger transport industry.
As Kachumbari says,
copying a good thing is the height of flattery !
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