A new Safaricom’s taxi app which is still on the pipeline is set to make hail-riding in Kenya much better.
According to Safaricom chief excutive Bob Collymore, Safaricom is collaborating with a local software firm to launch a public transport company that will compete with Uber as it seeks to pen new and wider sources of revenue.
Safaricom, which is the largest telecoms company in Kenya, will usher in the app called Littlecabs in three weeks time. The CEO added that “It is effectively a rival for Uber. It is a local competitor which will be cheaper and better for the local community”.
Uber operates in a good number of African countries, including Kenya where it started operation in the beginning of 2015. Since its launch in Kenya, Uber has attracted swarm of customers as they seem to offer lower prices. But regular taxi drivers have bewailed about its effect on business.
Some regular drivers have even gone physical with their complaints by attacking the cars of Uber taxi operators. In March, the Kenyan authorities charged six men with attempted murder and malicious damage to property for attacking Uber taxi drivers in February.
Safaricom, which is 40 percent owned by Britain’s Vodafone, and Nairobi-based software developer Craft Silicon, will help improve the application, provide the network connectivity, put Wi-Fi in vehicles which register under Littlecabs, and use its mobile-phone based financial service M-Pesa to process payments, Collymore said.
But this does not mean Safaricom is changing it business focus. The firm says it is only expanding its services as well as seeking for new source of income.
The service provider said it will retain its core businesses of offering calls, texts, Internet access and M-pesa. Collymore said the direction of the company is to become a platform, citing partnerships with local banks that use M-pesa to lend money on mobile phones.
Safaricom has had a three-year partnership with M-Kopa, a firm that provides customers with solar electricity, and set to join a firm that deals in education and another that helps jobseekers, Collymore said. He went on:
“When M-Pesa was launched it wasn’t launched as a big thing. It was just launched as a thing that was right in the edge. Now it is 20 percent of (Safaricom’s) revenue.”
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Littlecabs is probably not going to grow to that level but would diversify revenue source and develop skills in the local community, he said.
Safaricom is aiming to increase its revenue in the financial year to next March on the back of increased data usage driven by the youth segment and higher sales of smart phones.
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Last’s year revenue from calls grew by 4 percent in the financial year which ended in March 2016, surpassing the trend in other markets where voice revenues are falling.
But Collymore said the company may suffer a decrease as political protests, which have led to clashes between demonstrators and police, could dampen the outlook. He said: “It is not a question of who is right and who is wrong; these pictures are not helpful for investments.”