Uganda Innovates

From a security guard to a Boda Rider & Co-Founder of SafeBoda; The inspiring story of Ricky Rapa Thompson

Ricky Rapa Thompson is one of those Ugandans dedicated to solving problems with passion and entrepreneurship as the main building blocks. Originally a Boda Boda rider with a huge desire to learn and grow, Ricky dropped out of school because of a highly young unfortunate life.

As a person dedicated to growing despite all the odds being stacked against him, he decided to focus on the Boda Boda business. And this soon became his passion. And this was going fairly well until 2013 when a close friend of his lost their life in an accident. This was the wake up call for Ricky who then dedicated his life to road safety for boda boda riders and users.

Having witnessed quite a number of fatal accidents on the roads, Ricky decided he had had enough and would be the first to do something about it. “I decided to buy a second helmet for my passengers and would also request them to wear it before I would take them.” Ricky says. Because of this, he got raving reviews along with countless referrals and recommendations.

SafeBoda drivers being trained to use the company’s new app, which was released in February. The company, based in Kampala, equips its 1,000 or so drivers with helmets and teaches them first aid. (Photo by The Guardian)

Uganda and it’s complicated boda boda story

In Kampala or in any corner of this country, you do not need a map. You need a boda-boda. Name your destination rest assured to reach your destination as fast as you can. You don’t have to be afraid of the dark; all you need is a trusted one that will take you safely home.

Boda-bodas are the backbone of public transport in Uganda and without doubt, the fastest way to get around the capital city, Kampala. The boda boda motorbike taxi is a staple used by all sectors of society. Traditionally, the usual way of catching a ride was to venture into any street corner packed with tens of boda bodas or simply waiting for one to pass by.

Getting one, is one thing but reaching your destination safely is another. Safety has long been a concern for those riding boda bodas as the bikes are a leading cause of death and head injury in Kampala. A study conducted at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, by researchers at Makerere University, identified approximately 40% of trauma cases at the hospital to be due to boda-boda accidents.

But now, a new local startup SafeBoda is bringing this classic mode of transport into the technological age by providing the ability to hail a boda boda at the click of a smartphone all thanks to Ricky Rapa Thompson and his team.

How SafeBoda started

When Ricky met Max and Alastair in 2014, the three got together and formed Safe Boda – a company dedicated to creating entrepreneurial opportunities, curve out safe and professional standards in the transportation industry and also encourage a network of Riders who are responsible, foresighted, entrepreneurial and well clued on customer care.

Ricky’s idea was to train the riders, provide them with safety equipment and then connect them to passengers through a hotline. Max then suggested the idea of an App and in 2014 the Safeboda App was born.

Since then, Ricky and his team mates have developed a network of Safe Boda Riders who together have increased safety on the roads, improved the livelihoods of many boda boda riders through aspects of microcredit and micro insurance and also made transport around the city easier, comfortable and more reliable.

“Safeboda riders go through a rigorous vetting and training process before they are allowed into the now vast network of riders across the city.” Ricky says. “They are equipped with skills and expertise for riders and taken through the paces with training regarding road safety (in partnership with Global Road safety Partnership and Uganda Police).” He further explains. The riders are then uniquely identified with numbers on their helmets and reflector jackets so that passengers can easily identify them. The Riders carry extra helmets for their passengers and they also carry hairnets to ensure that the passengers do not need to worry hygiene issues.

On August 12th, 2017, Ricky Rapa was awarded the 2017 Young Achievers Award for Business by Reach A Hand Uganda. (photo credit: Reach A Hand Uganda)

The Impact of SafeBoda

The SafeBoda Innovation has encouraged easier, safer and more organized transportation around the city. As a matter of fact, there are no less than 15,000 trips every day and well over 500 trips on the app each day. As of 2016, 2.4 Million passengers had safer rides with 40% and 70% reduction in the likelihood of death and severe injury. The riders are also enjoying a 30% improvement in their revenues especially with the financial inclusion that the SafeBoda innovation has created.

In August 2017, Ricky received the Young Achievers Award for Business presented to him by Reach
A Hand Uganda.

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