Inside Safe Boda's Pandemic Pivot

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We know exactly what happened In March 2020. And as a result of that thing that happened, rideshare apps worldwide saw a sharp downturn in usage and revenue. 


So Uganda-based Safe Boda, facing a three-month government-imposed ban on public transit to quell the pandemic, began thinking of new ways to bring in business. The company recently featured on CNN, began operating as a courier service, delivering food and health products, as well as operating a taxi service.


This notion of shifting from moving people to moving things is on the mind of last-mile logistics companies throughout the region. In a recent BIG5D Podcast episode, Uber’s Kartik Taneja described how the pandemic has forced the ride-hailing and food delivery giant (which also owns the UAE’s Careem) has been forced to make a similar pivot. But Kartik cast the shift as a huge opportunity for Uber. 

The BIG5D Podcast · Episode Nine: Kartik Taneja, Head of B2B Solutions, EMEA, Uber

In Uganda, SafeBoda sets itself apart by focusing on the safety of its drivers and customers, as its name suggests. 


Driver Mukeshimana Dathive, said this in an interview with CNN. “I knew it would be easier to operate under SafeBoda, because clients use the app to hail drivers, and they’d know beforehand who their driver is, that makes it safer for me.” 


As with many ride-hailing apps, all transactions are paid through the app, with no cash changing hands. So drivers don’t run a risk of being robbed. And customers are notified of who their driver will be. Therefore they don’t run the risk of being picked up by an imposter. 


The initial success of SafeBoda has gone beyond delivering food and groceries. It has led them to partner with the United Nations to start delivering reproductive health products such as birth control and other contraceptives. As a result of these new features, has seen a triple-digit increase in trade through July 2020, according to CNN. 


Already a success in Uganda, SafeBoda hopes to be a feature available all over Africa, with founder Ricky Rapa Thomson saying in the same CNN interview, “At SafeBoda, we realize there’s a big opportunity beyond east Africa... in the next two, three years, we look to expand in over 10 cities across Africa.”


The company has also faced recent controversies over its handling of customer data. 


This month Uganda’s National Information Technology Authority cited Safe Boda for improperly sharing its user data with U.S. data processing company CleverTap. The authority also issued a series of recommendations to Safe Boda to improve its data protection practices. 


This news came just days after Safe Boda implemented a controversial terms and conditions change. The company stirred a backlash when it added the following language. “We will not be liable for any damages, direct incidental, and or consequential, arising out of the use of SafeBoda, including without limitation, damages arising out of communicating and or meeting with other participants of SafeBoda.”


This week Safe Boda responded to the controversies with a pledge to improve its customer data protection practices.

 

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