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Well-backed startup brings IOT to Rwanda's motorcycle taxis

Rwanda , 23 Mar 2018

Well-backed startup brings IOT to Rwanda's motorcycle taxis

Backed to the tune of US$5.35 million, Yego Moto is on a mission to use Internet of Things (IOT) technology to make the Rwandan motorcycle taxi industry safer and more efficient.

Yego Moto is a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Kommlabs, which has developed and provided homeland security solutions to over 70 countries over the last 23 years.

In 2014, Kommlabs diversified into field of smart transportation and cashless payments, with Yego Innovision incorporated in Rwanda in 2016. After an 18-month market survey it launched its first project, Yego Moto, in September of last year, to bring connected fare metering to motorcycle taxis.

"'Motos' are a very convenient way to get around many African nations and provide the much needed avenue of employment to the youth," said CEO Karanvir Singh.

Yet Yego Moto's 18-month study found several gaps and challenges in the sector.

"The motorcycle taxi industry was largely unregulated. There were no restrictions on the number of new 'motos' entering the field," said Singh.

"The increasing competition put pressure on the 'moto' drivers, who drove as fast as possible to complete rides in the shortest possible time. 'Motos' were involved in over eighty percent of the accidents and were responsible for ninety percent of the casualties."

Moreover, there was no fixed price for a trip, with fares having to be negotiated for each ride and foreigners often charged five times the normal fare.

"Drivers didn't carry sufficient change and passengers were frequently stranded while the driver tried to find the change, despite having reached their destination," Singh said.

"The entire industry was cash-based and did not contribute to the government's tax revenues. The drivers had no credit history and could not access bank finance."

To address these challenges, Yego Moto developed the concept of an IOT platform that would connect to Intelligent Connected Fare Meters (ICFMs). These ICFMs are installed on motorcycle taxis, ending haggling as fares were based on distance travelled, and removing the problem of lack of change with the option of cashless payments.

Yego Moto's parent company has bet big on this, investing US$5.35 million thus far. Singh expects the project to require a further US$14 million in the future, which will come from promoters and investors. The early signs, however, are good.

Since launching in Kigali in September, Yego Moto has completed over 425,000 trips, totalling over two million kilometres. It launched cashless payments in January in partnership with MTN, allowing MTN subscribers to tap and pay with a NFC tag. In February.

"The government has also mandated that all motorcycle taxis in Rwanda would have to install and use ICFMs within the next months," said Singh.

Yego Moto has almost 700 drivers currently, with Singh saying the company is registering all drivers, owners and motorcycles.

"This will become a national database that will streamline and formalise the industry. The verified drivers will bring about security and accountability," he said. "Over the next few months we plan to install ICFMs on all motorcycle taxis. Once the rollout is completed we expect to help complete 800,000 unique trips per day."

The startup is currently operating only in Kigali, but will be rolling out to cover the whole of Rwanda.

"We have received inquiries from 19 other African nations and are currently in discussions with three of them," said Singh.

Just like any other business venture in a new country, he said the Yego Moto team had had to educate itself about the Rwandan market and culture.

"We have had to educate and train drivers who have never used a touch screen before to use a device that is more like a mini computer," he said.

"We have been met with a lot of appreciation, even though getting to this point took about two years. Our platform has proven to be rock solid and has made drivers and passengers happy. There have been many lessons learned that have made us incorporate features that were not thought of. We have also had some funny instances of drivers testing out the weatherproof and shockproof nature of the meters by either submerging them in water or throwing them on the ground!"

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