250 Taxi: Kigali's version of Uber


A taxi parks at Gisementi in Remera. 250 Taxi is being billed as a game changer in public transport sector. (File)

Using information and communication technology (ICT) to access services is progressively becoming a way of life in the country, with the latest innovation the introduction of an online application that makes it easier for people using taxis to conveniently access them at any location within Kigali, any time and at minimal cost.

Speaking to The New Times, Afshon Wellace Ngige, the managing director of the company that developed the app, named ‘250 Taxi,’ said they have already launched it on GooglePlay, Windows Store and it will soon be available on Apple Store.

He said they will launch 250 Taxi to the public next week, following a successful test run.

All a user will have to do is download the application, create a user account then once logged in, they can access the cab nearest to them by pressing a button, Ngige said.

“We have added more security to the experience, we have partnered with registered taxi operators who we have trained and we have all their information that will be available to the user through the application,” he said.

According to Ngige, in December, the firm undertook a pilot phase of the business model that received positive reception from both taxi operators and their clients.

“We have partnered with a lot of small and mid-level businesses who don’t own company cars and created corporate accounts for them where they can use our services and have a payment plan convenient with their business,” Ngige said.

Regarding fares, the application is fitted with a meter that calculates the fare in relation to the distance covered and the fares are computed using the tariff set by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority.

No threat to operators

The services are in many ways similar to those offered by the global cab firm, Uber, which has raised concerns among the operators.

In neigbouring Kenya, the services have been commended by clients for reducing transport cost, but criticised by a section of operators who claim that Uber was “taking business from them.”

However, Ngige said 250 Taxi does not expect such reaction as the firm will be using professional cab drivers who are already in business.

“The situation in Kenya is very different from what we are doing. Some of the registered Uber drivers are not taxi operators and simply people with cars who are registered under Uber. We, however, walked around Kigali and handpicked our cab drivers. We made sure they were all licensed and registered with a taxi cooperative,” he said.

Currently, Ngige said, they are working with nearly 60 taxi operators in the city.

Clarisse Uwera, who has hired a taxi using the service on more than one occasion during the pilot phase, said she had a pleasant experience mainly because she did not have to negotiate for the fare.

“I was pleased by the customer care I received from the drivers and the efficiency of their services. I did not have to haggle with the driver over my payment and the cost was fair,” Uwera said.

A majority of drivers who spoke to The New Times said they would readily join the platform, mainly because it will increase their chances of getting passengers.

Bosco Makuza, who has been a taxi operator for five years and has recently received training to be part of 250 Taxi fleet, is optimistic his output will improve now that he is part of an efficient and budding company.

‘This company will save the public a lot, from time to the days of falling victim to unscrupulous clients and unproductively waiting around hoping that clients will approach an operator,” Makuza said.

ICT experts laud trend

Tech enthusiasts say the development is an important addition to transport sector in terms of efficiency and service delivery.

Gilbert Rwabigwi, local tech analyst, said such innovations in the transport sector are necessary for every forward looking society aspiring for progress.

The company, which is set to commence operations in Kigali in the coming week aims at a nationwide market in the near future.

Other ICT innovations that have improved public transport include Safemotos, a mobile phone application launched by two young entrepreneurs, which links clients to vetted public transport motorcycle operators at no extra costs.

The application launched last year and now available on Google store enables clients to order for a motorbike from any location in the city.

Another public transport solution dependent on ICT is Tap&Go smart payment solution, developed by AC Group which has automated public transport payment systems in a bid to promote cashless economy.