SafeBoda is a Ugandan-based startup that provides a ride-hailing service on motorcycle taxis, also known as boda-bodas, in Kampala and other major cities in Uganda. The company was founded in 2015 by Ricky Rapa Thomson, Maxime Dieudonne, and Alastair Sussock. The founders came up with the idea of SafeBoda after realizing the dangers associated with using boda-bodas in Uganda, which are known for their reckless driving and high accident rates.
SafeBoda's main goal is to provide safe and reliable transportation services for passengers and reduce the number of accidents associated with boda-bodas in Uganda. The company achieves this goal by vetting and training its riders, providing them with safety equipment such as helmets and reflective jackets, and offering passengers the ability to track their rides in real-time using the SafeBoda app.
To illustrate how SafeBoda works, let's take the example of a passenger in Kampala who needs to get to their destination quickly and safely. The passenger would simply open the SafeBoda app on their smartphone, enter their destination, and request a ride. The app would then match the passenger with the nearest available SafeBoda rider, who would arrive at the passenger's location within a few minutes.
Once the rider arrives, the passenger would verify the rider's identity using the SafeBoda app and then get on the motorcycle. The rider would then take the passenger to their destination using the most efficient route, all while wearing safety equipment and obeying traffic rules. After the ride, the passenger would pay for the ride using mobile payments through the SafeBoda app, ensuring a seamless and cashless experience. Cash is also accepted.
SafeBoda's business model is similar to that of Uber, but with a few key differences. Unlike Uber, which primarily uses cars, SafeBoda operates on motorcycles, which are better suited to navigating Kampala's congested streets. Additionally, SafeBoda places a greater emphasis on safety and driver training, which is critical in a country where motorcycle accidents are all too common.
SafeBoda has since expanded its services to other African countries, including Kenya, and Nigeria, but has since pulled out of both markets. The startup has now morphed into a super app of sorts. It used its core of ride-hailing as a market entry but now boasts of a fintech service(buying airtime, paying bills, savings), delivery services and taxi-hailing called SafeCar. In the past, Safeboda doubled down on e-commerce as well, especially during the 2020 lockdown, but it closed these services by the end of 2022.
As per Digest Africa, Safeboda has raised about $1.5m in disclosed funding. But the startup does not disclose most of its funding. According to sources familiar with the matter, the startup has raised much more including an undisclosed funding round from Google Africa Investment Fund and an undisclosed Series B in May 2019 from Allianz Ventures and Go-Ventures.
How big is the problem that Safeboda is solving
To understand how big the problem Safeboda is solving is, you need to understand the relationship between Ugandans and motorcycles (known as Boda bodas). Boda bodas are a popular mode of transportation in Uganda and other African countries. There are several reasons why Ugandans love boda bodas:
Affordability: Boda bodas are often a more affordable option compared to car-hailing services. This makes them a popular choice for individuals with lower incomes who need to travel short distances.
Accessibility: Boda bodas are able to navigate through traffic more easily than cars, which makes them a convenient option for passengers who need to get to their destination quickly.
Flexibility: Boda bodas can travel on almost any road or pathway, making them a more flexible option for passengers who need to travel to remote areas or areas with poor road infrastructure.
Convenience: Boda bodas are often readily available on the street. They can pick you up from any place and drop you off anywhere.
However, despite their popularity, boda bodas can also be unsafe and unreliable, The boda boda industry in Uganda is known for being largely informal and unregulated, which can lead to safety concerns and other issues. The industry is estimated to employ over 100,000 people in Uganda, making it a significant contributor to the country's economy. However, the lack of regulation has led to a number of challenges, including:
Safety concerns: Boda bodas are involved in a high number of accidents in Uganda, and passengers are often at risk of injury or death due to the lack of safety equipment and training for drivers.
Theft and fraud: Passengers using boda bodas in Uganda are often at risk of theft or fraud, as drivers may overcharge passengers or steal their belongings.
Traffic congestion: The high number of boda bodas on the road can contribute to traffic congestion in urban areas, which can lead to longer travel times and increased air pollution.
Unreliability: Boda bodas are often unreliable, with drivers frequently changing their fares or routes without warning, which can be frustrating for passengers.
Lack of formalization: The boda boda industry in Uganda is largely informal, which makes it difficult for authorities to regulate and enforce safety standards. which is why companies like SafeBoda have emerged to provide a safer and more reliable motorcycle taxi service for passengers in Uganda and other African countries.
So what is Safeboda’s solution?
SafeBoda addresses these challenges by providing a safe, reliable, and affordable motorcycle taxi service that is regulated, and drivers are trained on safety measures. SafeBoda drivers undergo a rigorous selection process, which includes background checks, safety training, and assessments of their driving skills.
Additionally, all SafeBoda drivers are required to wear helmets and provide helmets for passengers, which is a safety measure that is not always enforced in traditional motorcycle taxi services.
SafeBoda also uses technology to make the booking process more efficient and transparent. Passengers can use the SafeBoda app to book rides, track their driver's location, and pay for their rides digitally, which reduces the need for cash transactions and helps to prevent disputes over fares.
Safeboda’s competitors in Uganda
SafeBoda operates in a competitive space, and there are several other motorcycle taxi services and ride-hailing companies operating in Uganda and other African countries. Here are some of SafeBoda's competitors:
Uber: Uber operates in several African countries, including Uganda. The company offers both car and motorcycle taxi services, and passengers can use the Uber app to book rides and pay for them digitally.
Bolt: Bolt (formerly known as Taxify) is another ride-hailing company that operates in several African countries, including Uganda. The company offers both car and motorcycle taxi services, and passengers can use the Bolt app to book rides and pay for them digitally.
Dial Jack: Dial Jack is a Ugandan-based motorcycle taxi service that operates in Kampala. The company allows passengers to book rides using a mobile app or by calling their hotline.
Will Safeboda be successful?
It is difficult to predict the future success of any company, but SafeBoda has demonstrated promising signs of growth and has received significant investment from well-known investors. The company has differentiated itself by focusing on safety and reliability, which has helped to build trust with customers. Additionally, the boda boda industry in Uganda and other African countries is huge, which presents opportunities for SafeBoda to expand its services and customer base. However, the company will need to continue to innovate and adapt to changing market conditions to remain successful in the long term.
In conclusion, SafeBoda is a fast-growing startup that is addressing a critical need for safe and reliable motorcycle taxis in Uganda and other African countries. The company has differentiated itself by providing a technology-enabled service that focuses on safety and reliability, which has helped to build trust with customers.
SafeBoda's success is evident through its significant fundraising and expanding operations in multiple African countries. While there are challenges to overcome in the boda boda industry, SafeBoda's growth demonstrates the potential for innovative solutions to address these challenges and improve the transportation sector in Africa. Overall, SafeBoda is a promising company that has the potential to transform the motorcycle taxi industry and create a meaningful impact in the communities it serves.