If you have ever taken a boda boda ride, then you certainly know the inconvenience that comes with finding change in case you have a denomination higher than the agreed fare.
Even boda boda riders and cab drivers agree that it is one of their worst nightmares, especially if riding at night.
“We often take people to gated communities and you don’t have the change to give them. The time you spend looking for change around is insecure for you,” says Bosco Zalibala, a SafeBoda rider.
Ziribala is however happy that he rarely encounters these challenges nowadays, since his current business partner, SafeBoda, introduced a cashless system where travellers pay digitally.
“The cashless payment system has been good because there are times when you get a customer whose fare is, for instance, Shs 3,500 yet you don’t have the change of Shs 500,” says Ziribala, who has been riding with SafeBoda since 2017.
He adds; “A thief can even attack you as you struggle to look for change. But if the customer is cashless, as soon as you reach the final destination, s/he pays automatically and you also leave immediately.”
According to Christian Wamambe, the vice president in charge of payments and well-being at SafeBoda, the cashless system was introduced to make life easy for customers and riders alike.
“For a cashless customer, you just need to add money to your wallet and whenever you order a boda or car, at the end of the trip you don’t need to struggle looking for change,” he says.
“The system automatically withdraws money from your wallet and pays the rider or driver,” he says.
SafeBoda is a super APP!
For close to a decade, SafeBoda has become Uganda’s go-to riding mobile application enabling people to reach destinations using a motorcycle or car. They have more than 30,000 riders on the App.
On top of that, they offer financial services where one can pay their bills, and send parcels, among other transactions. Wamambe says SafeBoda started by providing boda boda transport services through a mobile application to end the hustle of people walking along streets and boda boda stages and bargaining with boda boda riders about the trip fare.
“With the SafeBoda app, you click to order a boda, put your destination, put where you are, and as soon as you order, a rider will call you and pick you up directly from your location,” he says.
The prices are transparent because, at the beginning of the trip, the customer gets an estimate of the trip fee. In 2022, SafeBoda launched SafeCar as a result of many customers requesting this service.
“They loved our boda service and they wanted a trusted car service. This was mainly because the car industry was bogged down with a lot of people negotiating trip fares,” he says.
“Imagine ordering a car and you have Shs 20,000 in your pocket only for a driver to ask for money twice the price. At SafeBoda, we felt that we needed to come in and help our customers. There were also our boda riders who wanted to transition into car drivers.”
Since this product’s launch in September 2022, Wamambe says more than 50 boda-boda riders have transferred into car drivers and are earning a decent living from the service.
“Overall we are happy with the impact we are having in the fintech sector. At the end of 2021, SafeBoda got a fintech license from the central bank. We have more than one million customers who have used at least one of our services,” he says.
Wamambe nonetheless notes that there are several challenges in the fintech industry such as a lack of talent, cybersecurity issues and unnecessary competition in this market.
“For instance, the best engineer from a Ugandan university is taken away by a company abroad. This means that the local businesses will struggle because your competition isn’t just in the neighbourhood but the globe,” he says.
He is however happy with the 40 Days 40 FinTech initiative that is shedding a light on many startups in the industry and what they do.
“Most of the time customers are looking for services but tend to look for companies abroad and yet there are homegrown companies that have the solutions to their problems. This platform not only allows fintechs to shine or showcase what they have but for their customers to know that they exist,” he says.
“Even regulators start to understand businesses a lot more. It is very hard for our regulators to know all the businesses at ago in a single day. Such an initiative continues to market our businesses and create awareness to even the government,” he adds.
SafeBoda is the 25th participant in this year’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative; organised by HiPipo in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Since its launch in 2020, the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative has become a household name in the financial technology space of the East African region. In the last three editions, more than 100 fintechs have been showcased, highlighting stories changing people’s lives, especially in the under-served sectors.