The Covid-19 pandemic has surely been a thorn for many businesses across the globe, and it seems SafeBoda could be the next one to fold as it recently paused all operations in Kenya citing several concerns.
According to the ride-hailing company, SafeBoda users within Kenya have cited a number of complaints against its riders with some claiming they’re denying the users the service by not picking up calls or taking ride requests. Others have gone as far as to bargain for higher prices than the ones stated in the app.
There have also been reports of the riders running off with deliveries meant for the customers, which has only tainted the app’s credibility even further, forcing it to take action by bringing to a halt all its operations within Kenya.
According to the statement released by SafeBoda, the company announced that with effect from 27th November 2020, they will be pausing all activities in Kenya. It read in part “SafeBoda has made a very difficult decision to pause Rides and Send services from the 27th of November 2020. From now until then, we will be promoting our drivers and this will be a chance for customers to use their remaining wallet balances to take rides and send packages.”
“This was a hard decision for us to make but we are still dedicated to empowering communities. Thank you for being a part of the #nduthigang. We love you🧡 — SafeBoda Kenya
While other competitors like Bolt and Uber seem to be thriving, SafeBoda may be going downhill and this is no surprise to some of us. To offer a broader explanation, even though the company has tried its best to offer cheaper services to its users, it has at the same time neglected its riders at their expense.
The transaction fees that are deducted off the rider’s keep getting higher, not lower, meanwhile, the users are given lower rates which only hurts the riders in return. To top things off, the Covid-19 pandemic made things even worse for the business, which forced many of its riders to either abandon the app or service altogether during the lockdown.
When one looks at SafeBoda’s current standing in Uganda, it’s clearly evident that any time soon, the company may hang up its gloves if it doesn’t make some changes to its policies very soon.
SafeBoda suspending operations in Kenya is a clear sign something is definitely wrong
For any user who has interacted with the SafeBoda riders in Uganda, one or two major complaints come up, and that’s the lower travel rates given to users plus the fees cut off from each ride they do. Many of the riders complain that even for those travel routes where the rates a very low, they’re still losing out due to the transaction fees levied on them.
Let’s take a moment, and view ourselves as a SafeBoda rider. Imagine you get up in the morning expecting to make some money out of the service. You’re expected to have airtime on you at all times to call users, have a mobile data connection on the daily, and lastly handle the fueling of the motorbike including servicing and other things too.
So, with all the above-said things, expenses aren’t accounted for when it comes to using the app. So, imagine taking someone to a far place let’s say from Kampala to Entebbe and the app brings up a charge of possibly 8,000 to 10,000 shillings only yet the route deserves at least UGX 13,000- 15,000 or more depending on how deep the user is intending to go within the area.
So, as a rider, you get to take a user for half or even lower than the cost you expect, and then the company (SafeBoda) goes ahead to deduct a fee from that route made without accounting for the expenses of fuel and time used by you as a rider to make that journey.
After taking on several routes on the same app, and taking into account what you have spent in the week or month, you may find yourself unable to save anything aside from the service yet you keep spending more and more. This has been a major issue for most riders.
Being that I am a user of SafeBoda myself, I take time to ask the riders about their experiences with app and most of them refer to the same issues over and over again.
If SafeBoda doesn’t work on their policies, they may find themselves out of Uganda soon
It has become so bad that you find yourself at a boda boda stage with so many riders donning the SafeBoda attires but none of them is using the app anymore. Others don’t accept travel requests that are cashless because they feel cheated.
The riders themselves have also expressed concerns about how the company doesn’t care about their concerns, more especially during the previous lockdown that lasted for more than three months and yet the company didn’t offer them any discounts on their rates or covid relief packages to help them through the tough times.
A lot can be said about SafeBoda, but we can’t fully determine whether the company hasn’t received or taken into account any of these issues presented by their riders and whether they’re doing anything about it.
In recent months, the company has come up with different innovative ways to try and keep the services active by adding shopping capabilities, delivery services, and so forth. But will this keep the company from closing? Time will only tell.
In 2019, SafeBoda is believed to have had over 8,000 riders registered on their platform but as of right now, one could estimate even a lower number than that.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.