Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Appmaker Brings Ride-Hailing Service to Rwanda's Motorcycle Taxis

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Appmaker Brings Ride-Hailing Service to Rwanda's Motorcycle Taxis

Article excerpt

Canadian brings ride-hailing app to Rwanda

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In Rwanda, Canadian expat Barrett Nash says you don't need a morning coffee if you take a taxi to work. That's because most taxis are motorcycles and riding on one gives you enough adrenaline to wake right up.

But three years ago, after Nash and his Kenyan colleague Peter Kariuki got in a serious crash while riding a motorcycle taxi, they came up with an idea: an Uber-like business called SafeMotos, with a focus on guaranteeing safe drivers.

Motorcycle taxis -- dubbed motos by Rwandan locals -- are a common way to get around in the small African country, frequently used over five times day. But they're also often considered risky by locals.

"You could always tell immediately if the driver is a good driver or a bad driver," said Nash, who came to Rwanda in 2010 to work for an NGO that provides laptops to schoolchildren.

The 29-year-old from British Columbia said his business employs moto drivers who can be ordered through the SafeMotos app to take users around Kigali, Rwanda's capital.

The business is one of the first ride-hailng startups in the country, Nash said, and business has ramped up quickly. In 2015 it clocked in around 5,000 trips, he said. By 2016, it hit 80,000 trips, and just halfway into 2017, it has already recorded 120,000 trips.

But in addition to allowing users to book rides, the app also uses smartphones to track how safely moto drivers ride, Nash explained.

By using existing motion sensors in the smartphones carried by the drivers, SafeMotos can track how drivers accelerate and brake, similar to how some insurance companies use a dashboard device to monitor how safely their clients drive, Nash said.

Now, to further expand the business, the company is planning to unveil a new feature: free rides for certain situations. Restaurants and businesses are offering to pay for users' rides to and from their business as a way to lure more customers in.

Nash admits it's not a model that would work in most places, but it makes sense in Kigali. …

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