By Sseguya Abdul Nasser
The absence of an efficient public transport service in greater Kampala has been a source of pain for millions of the city’s inhabitants.
However, it is also proving to be a source of motivation for some to find solutions to fill the gaps in the sector, and perhaps make some money.
The latest innovation to grace the city is Easy Matatu; a scheduled transport service that connects passengers with taxi drivers with the promise of delivering efficient, timely service at almost similar rates compared to those of ordinary taxis.
Founded by an IT professional Lema Carl Andrew, the company has positioned itself as a technology-driven company that seeks to bring together passengers and taxi drivers in an organised manner.
They’ve started in Uganda and greater Kampala area where they bring passengers from nearby places such as Entebbe, Mukono and Najeera to Kampala City Centre in the morning and take them back in the evening.
Philip Tumwizere, a Transportation consultant whom we found at one of their departure points at Railway station along Jinja Road in Kampala, explains that the company uses a App-based and USSD booking system, as well as ordinary come-and-go arrangement connect passengers to the service.
“We have an Android and Apple-based phone application that allows anyone to book a scheduled ride for now three routes in the morning and in the evening,” says Tumwizere.
Besides the App, someone can simply use the USSD path on ‘dumb phones’ by dialing *284*28# and follow prompts to book for the service.
And as this reporter witnessed, even showing up at their pick up points before the scheduled departure, can enable someone to enjoy the service.
To make it clear, perhaps, the young men who organise the service don’t own taxis but simply connect passengers to what they describe as clean, safe and reliable taxis.
Their fares are fairly within the range of ordinary taxis. For example, whereas other regular taxis charge UGX5000 for the Entebbe-Kampala route, Easy Matatu charges UGX6000. For the Mukono and Najeera route, they charge UGX5000.
Tumwizere adds that they have enjoyed growth in their operations since they started in 2018.
“We used to have one scheduled departure a day. Now we have three scheduled departures for example on the Entebbe route,” says Tumwizere.
According to Tumwizere, their advantage over ordinary taxis lies mainly in the quality of service; which focuses on efficiency, cleanliness and safety.
“We use competent and trained drivers who operate clean vehicles which are still in very good condition,” he says.
Beyond that, he adds: “We also promise our customers to keep time by leaving at the appointed hour and also not delay on the road by picking up other passengers along the route.”
Easy Matatu has won accolades from reputable institutions in the transport industry such as Shell Foundation who regard them as their partners.
The following is the published testimony given by Shell Foundation on its website on the record of Easy Matatu during the COVID -19 lockdown.
“Easy Matatu is reforming the existing, informal minibus-taxis (known as “matatus”) industry by building a community of trusted matatu drivers and a fleet of clean and safe vehicles to provide first-rate transportation to the public.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant they have had to suspend normal services for the safety of their customers and drivers. Nevertheless, they are providing support in a number of ways Partnered with Toyota in Uganda to provide transport to and from a local hospital for medical workers.
Provided more than 35 drivers who have worked and been trained by them with an unconditional cash transfer to alleviate their lack of earnings during the crisis Continued to provide safe and reliable support for companies of staff that provide essential services.
Maintained 15 staff members to ensure they are able to serve their community.