This has sat in my drafts since the first week I used Safeboda’s cashless option – months ago. I didn’t think it was worth publishing, as there’s not much to say about a taxi hailing app for bodabodas (motorcycles). But given Safeboda has recently hit the news last week after receiving an undisclosed amount of funding from Allianz X, I thought it’s time to explain to people – from my own perspective – why I find Safeboda really unique.
Explaining what Safeboda is isn’t hard: Basically it is a smartphone app that let’s you hail a bodaboda. So yeah, like Uber. But Uber has different options from Uber X, to Uber Chapchap and Uber Boda. Safeboda is only for Bodas. So why is it a big deal? Well because the company’s approach is very unique.
Here are the unique things with Safeboda:
- There’s a wallet – you can add money to your wallet, conveniently in Kenya through M-Pesa, and with this option you’ll pay a fraction of what a trip would cost with normal cash. So when you ride cashless, all you do is hail a rider, finish the trip and go your way. Check screenshot above to see difference in price between cashless vs cash (currently promo cuts cost by 50%). Note: Riders still get their full amount.
- All Riders have unique numbers on their helmets – So when you request a ride, you will know the rider you’ve been matched to using their numbers that are properly visible. This is good both for finding the rider, for your safety, and for ease of reporting any incidences as it is much easier to remember the helmet number than the bodaboda registration number.
- You can PAIR with a rider – you needn’t request for a far away rider if there’s one around you. You can match yourself to the rider closest to you using the Pair option. The rider receives a request on their end, and when they accept, your trip is ready.
- Safety is first – the name ‘Safeboda’ was a good decision on the company’s side. They for real focus on safety. Both rider and customer have these amazingly designed helmets, and orange reflector jackets. If you fear that the helmet is not clean, some riders have this thing you wear on your head to make sure your head/hair is protected from dirt, germs etc. (I wish all riders had this).
- Rating System – You cannot start a new trip before you rate your previous rider. And this is important given there’s many riders who might be bad for some reasons.
In my first days using the app, I used to wonder how the company got riders on board (there’s now over 1500 riders I guess because I used a rider with number 1200+ back in April), and what riders thought of the cashless system. And what do you do on any bodaboda rides, try and hear what the rider is saying through the wind. So I found the following out from asking.
Here’s the unique proposition Safeboda gives its Riders:
- It’s like employment: This was from my favorite rider called Alfred. He told me this for him is now a full time job: You wake up, go to work, drop off customers, and wait for your money to come on Tuesdays. He said the cashless option helps him plan with money in bigger quantities rather than daily cash which he still gets from cash paying customers.
- Insurance: Safeboda guarantees insurance for both rider and customer upto a certain value given the rider has done I-don’t-know what number of trips, and was riding using their app. Also info I got from Alfred.
- Training: Riders receive training from company before being given the helmets, and jackets – which I believe they pay for.
But this thing doesn’t work well with all riders.
- I’ve found riders who cancel trips when they hear I am going cashless. Why? Because they prefer getting their money there and then after trip ends.
- I have found riders who are signed up on all bodaboda apps, and will confuse you with different helmets, or different reflectors.
- There are riders who will ignore convenient routes and take longer ones just to try and get more money from you.
- There are also riders with very dirty gear.
But hopefully, the rating system works and the company continually weeds out people rated lowly so as to ensure a smooth experience for all customers.
The thing is, Safeboda came into the Kenyan market with a different approach from what we’ve seen Uber, Taxify (now Bolt) and Little doing. They chose both unique colors, helmets and a unique app, and with that approach made it more friendly to both riders and customers. You definitely know how to distinguish a Safeboda from other riders, and I truly wish the company plans on expanding to more areas in Nairobi and other cities in Kenya.
I believe Safeboda is one of the better ways to cut off the bad bodaboda culture we’ve seen previously in Kenya: from thieves using the motorcycles to steal from unexpecting customers, to riders flouting traffic rules and being rowdy and unruly. It is high time the Nairobi County Government understood that to decongest the city, we need to reduce traffic from personal cars and focus on public transportation solutions from buses to even bodas. I don’t know what made the county government think banning bodas from the CBD makes for a better city. It doesn’t. The county askaris need to stop harassing well organised bodas that are properly registered and follow all rules. Technology helps solve problems, and here’s a good example of that. Riders are properly monitored and as such, rules will be properly followed.
Over the months I’ve used the service, I have loved never having to worry about fluctuations like with Taxify where you would argue with riders over price charged versus what was estimated. And since I am always late, I love never having to worry about finding a boda to help me beat the terrible traffic . I just don’t like that in my area, there’s only two Safeboda riders to date.