Sindri Kinnier | Palladium - Dec 18 2019
The Uber of Tuk Tuks

Calling a taxi in Tanzania isn’t simple: passengers often have to wait when drivers are farther than they say, and some drivers aren’t properly licensed. With over 16,000 road fatalities in Tanzania each year, along with growing traffic, safety is a big concern. On the other side, taxi drivers often wait at specific taxi stands, limiting their customer pool and their revenue. They often struggle to keep proper records of their trips, expenses, and profits. This is where Twende comes in. “My company is almost like the Uber of tuk tuks, or rickshaws,” explains Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Justin Kahaigili. “But we call them 'bajaj' here.”

The Model

Justin is a computer scientist who first thought of the idea for Twende – which means “Let’s Go” – as a university project. He and his team of six have created a mobile app that uses GPS to connect customers with safe, reliable transportation – reducing road safety and crime – while also helping drivers expand their customer base and livelihood. Besides bajaj, Twende customers can request transportation from taxi cars and motorcycles.

“We have a vetting process for our taxi and bajaj drivers,” explains Justin. Twende looks at drivers’ criminal records, valid government-issued drivers’ licenses, attendance from an approved driving school, and whether they have insurance.

Twende has also integrated its app with five mobile payment services, providing multiple payment options while eliminating the risks for both drivers and passengers that sometimes come with cash payments.

“We are making a lot of jobs in our community, and helping passengers,” he says.

Scaling the Business

Twende received a USD 25,000 grant from the Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC), along with mentorship to scale its product. “With this extra funding, we were able to add more bank and network operator partnerships, expand our mobile payment service, and offer our app for iPhones,” says Justin.

Justin expanded the app’s servers, which can now accommodate more than 30,000 requests per second, and Twende’s DLIIC mentor helped it expand by marketing to drivers and users in new regions.

With a solid business model, operations, and expanded capacity, Twende is ready for the next step. The company uses social media, radio, and bumper stickers to market the app. “We also have outreach events to convince drivers to get properly trained and join our platform,” explains Justin.

Twende currently has 4,000 registered drivers, 80,000 passengers, and over 200,000 completed trips.

“We’re operating in only a handful regions right now, but my vision is to expand across Tanzania and then across East Africa,” says Justin.

“Our product has benefits on both a community and business side – we’re filling a real gap in the market.”

Palladium implemented the Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC), which aims to engage, support, and connect Tanzanian innovators, developers, and solution providers to each other and to opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. Including Twende, DLIIC provided USD 1.55M in grants and mentorship to 53 local innovators over a three-year period. DLIIC transitioned its work to a newly-created, local NGO – the Tanzania Data Lab – in 2019 to ensure ongoing support for the grantees.

DLIIC was implemented in collaboration with the Dar Teknohama Business Incubator under the Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) initiative. DCLI was funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR – a U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world) and was implemented by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). For more details, click here.