On February 18th 2020, I published “NTSA is not being reasonable with call to ban SWVL in Nairobi“. The Authority had ordered SWVL to stop operations in Nairobi. They had also called for the prosecution of CEO Mostafa Kandil for what they called illegal operations. The Authority had even gone ahead and written to the Inspector General of Police on the matter.
As one who was greatly affected by the decision, it was annoying to see a transport authority going all out to kill an idea that was actually helping the city control the unmanageable matatu industry. It didn’t make sense to allow the usual unnecessarily loud and unsafe matatus while banning an app that made everything simple, secure and organised. I wrote:
NTSA – if they are to be seen as a forward-thinking authority – should not force a remarkable idea to die because of old school policies. SWVL should be categorised differently from normal matatus and allowed to ply all routes as Ubers and other Taxi apps are allowed provided they follow certain regulations that can be set as time goes by. If we are to find ways to make Nairobi better, and less congested, then we shouldn’t fight ideas that are helping solve the problems we currently face.
Well many months later, the NATIONAL TRANSPORT AND SAFETY AUTHORITY seems to have opened their eyes somewhat. They’ve given SWVL the green-light to continue operations and have said they will also look to work on updating the existing regulations to accommodate tech enablers providing transportation based solutions. It’s 2020… but finally!
“We have continued to engage with the NTSA to arrive at a framework that will support technology-enabled transport solutions and take Kenya to the next level. This is because, at the end of the day, our goals are the same. We both endeavour to develop an efficient transportation system for commuters that is safe, reliable, convenient and affordable. We are excited to be able to continue our operations and we are very pleased about the consideration of the regulatory framework to incorporate technological developments coming up in the industry”, said SWVL Kenya General Manager, Dip Patel.
Hopefully, NTSA doesn’t go back on their word, and fingers-crossed we see more of such ideas on Kenyan roads soon. Craft Silicon’s LITTLE had a similar idea which they also discontinued after wrangles with the NTSA. I believe they should now relaunch the program with the NTSA seemingly finally understanding the importance of technology in solving one of Nairobi’s biggest challenges: Transport.
Currently though, with the ongoing pandemic, SWVL isn’t actively operational. They’re however offering corporate rides and will be looking to engage more organisations seeking comfortable, reliable, safe, convenient and affordable transportation for their employees.
The company has said it is very ready to resume normal operations once an exit date is confirmed for the current lockdown. Post lockdown, SWVL says they will begin onboarding existing bus owners and public transport SACCOs, in their bid to benefit the entire ecosystem with a more inclusive approach.