By Mark Kawalya
If you want to get around Kampala quickly, you have three options. You can drive a personal car, jump onto one of the risky motorcycles locally called “boda bodas,” or hail one of the minibus taxis that are often poorly maintained and many times, dangerously driven.
This informal sector is made up of about 16,000 14-seater minibus taxis that account for more than 50% of all daily journeys made in Kampala. They have extensive coverage and are affordable for many. However, prices are determined by operators or fragmented associations, which are under no regulatory obligation to meet any safety or hygiene standards.
Established in 2019, Easy Matatu is a local startup that links commuters to safe, convenient, reliable and clean public transport. Using the firm’s mobile application, users can pre-book seats on scheduled rides that have trained drivers who also benefit through increased income, plus working in a structured and less stressful environment.
As riders are pooled through the Easy Matatu application, drivers do not have to street-hail passengers, reducing the trip time, improving fuel economy and reducing carbon emissions. Easy Matatu drivers benefit in ways that traditional minibus taxi drivers do not. They earn a fixed amount for each trip, regardless of whether the taxi is filled to capacity or not. They are also not affected by external market conditions like fuel price hikes or unfavorable traffic conditions.
The firm uses algorithms that digitally log all journeys to curb robberies that happen occasionally in many of the unregulated minibus taxis.
As of February 2021, more than 8,000 clients have taken an Easy Taxi that is operated by one of the 50 vetted drivers.
Easy Matatu was founded by three friends (Andrew Ssali, Lema Carl Andrew, and Precious Turinawe). The trio had the idea when it took them two hours to travel from Kampala to Entebbe using public means, a journey that lasts about 45 minutes if you drive yourself. Easy Matatu has received $525,000 in grant funding from Total and the Shell Foundation to support the business as it looks to refine and scale up its service offering.
Kampala has a tremendous opportunity to reform public transport in the city using solutions that harness existing transport services while bettering livelihoods and meeting the growing need for safe commuting.