Problems with Public Transportation In Zimbabwe

COVID 19 Image

The novel virus COVID-19 has shocked the whole world and brought both vibrant and ailing economies to a grinding halt. Businesses, big and small, are struggling to stay afloat globally. Zimbabwe has not been spared by the impact of Corona virus. While there have been 9 confirmed cases and 1 death from COVID-19 as of April 6, 2020, the President of Zimbabwe introduced measures that are meant to combat corona virus and hopefully reduce the chances of any further infections in the country.

 

Most Zimbabweans use Public Transport as the primary means of transportation to and from home, work, school, church, and many other social and economic activities. Public Transport has been identified as a potential hotspot for new corona virus infections. As such, the government has recently announced a lockdown and all public transport operators will not be allowed to operate during lockdown, except for ZUPCO. These preventative measures are primarily meant to encourage physical and social distancing. Public Transport Operators, both formal and informal, have unexpectedly found themselves in a worst-case scenario for the businesses, they must halt their operations during the 21-day long lockdown period. This presents a major challenge for Public Transport Operators; whose businesses depend of the movement of people. This 21-day long lockdown period means Operators will not generate any revenue, and this will affect the remuneration of their employees. Unfortunately, the Zimbabwean government has yet to offer any plans for protecting small businesses, let alone informal public transport operators, from the risk of bankruptcy and collapse.

Pre-existing Challenges.

While COVID19 has presented new challenges to the Public Transport Industry in Zimbabwe, Operators and Drivers in Zimbabwe had already been facing a host of challenges that will need to be addressed when the COVID19 epidemic has been dealt with. Zimbabwe has been experiencing a tremendous economic crisis for the last 20 years and as a result, small to medium businesses were already struggling to remain afloat. The transport industry is one of the sectors affected by the crisis. Transport plays a crucial role in connecting people, transporting goods and services and fostering sustainable development. Urban productivity is highly dependent on the efficiency of its transport system to move labor, consumers, and freight between multiple origins and destinations.

Road transport is the most dominant mode of motorized transport in Africa, accounting for 80 percent of the goods traffic and 90 percent of the passenger traffic on the continent (UNESCO, 2009). In Zimbabwe, most people use commuter omnibuses daily, but, the commuter omnibus operators are faced with a myriad of challenges.

Fuel Line in Zimbabwe after Fuel Shortages

Fuel Shortages

Fuel shortages constitute one of the major challenges as fuel is an integral component in the transport business. Long winding queues of cars, commuter omnibuses, and conventional buses have become the order of the day at few service stations that are selling the commodity. In Zimbabwe, fuel shortages have made some of the transport operators to close their businesses as most of them spend a day or two queuing for fuel. Fuel, as one of the economic drivers, is an essential commodity in the transport business. On average, an 18-seater kombi works for about ZWL$300- $500 of revenue per day after removing the fuel expense. If it then spends the whole day queuing for fuel this means that an average of 50% daily revenue is lost. This, then means that operators would not be able to offer meaningful salaries to their employees as they take 20-25% as their commission monthly. When a business is paying out through commission, there is need for a constant operation.

Even though there are fuel shortages the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) recently instructed (ZERA) to register all fuel service stations that have free funds, which they can use to import fuel for sale in foreign currency. This alone has a very negative impact on the operators who charge in the local ZWL currency and yet they must change it to forex so at to access fuel. Getting forex is a challenge in Zimbabwe as it is inaccessible on the formal market. Forex can only be accessed on the parallel market (black market) albeit at abnormal rates. Currently, the formal market is rate is at US$1: ZWL25 while the parallel market is at around US$1: ZW:38. The difference is unbearable, however, Operators have no option but to look for forex in the black market for the sake business continuity.  Furthermore, most motor spares retailers are selling vehicle parts exclusively in forex. This does not provide a level ground to the transport operators as they cannot access spares using the local currency (ZWL) which constitutes over 90% of their revenues

ZImbabwean men using cellphones in Minibus Kombi

Poor receipting and accounting practices

There is a culture of poor bookkeeping among Public Transport Operators. This lack of transparency exposes their business to corruption, embezzlement by drivers and outright theft. Public Transport Operators struggle to track and record key metrics such as the number of daily trips and the number of commuters picked up per trip. Without being physical there on the trip, owners of public transport vehicles have no way of knowing how much revenue was collected by drivers and conductors.

While there is a proliferation of fintech, mobile banking apps, mobile money and digital currency in Zimbabwe that include Ecocash, OneMoney, Telecash, EasyCash, and BitCoin, many Public Transport Operators have struggled to take advantage of transparency that comes with digital payments. This is another problem that negatively impacts their business and they cannot offer service to customers who are willing to pay electronically. The major Mobile Money operators in Zimbabwe (Econet and Netone) work in a parallel mode. One cannot pay for a OneMoney (Netone) service using Ecocash mobile money. However, ZUPCO has managed this by using TapCard, an electronic card that utilizes Near Field Communication technology, but this remains a challenge to the independent operators especially those operating in small scale. Operators highlight the need to have a payment platform that will accept all digital payments, from the bank and mobile money transfers

Potholes in Zimbabwe

Poorly Maintained Roads and Infrastructure

The decay of the Zimbabwean economy in the last 20 years has not spared key infrastructure.  The building of new roads between cities, towns and rural areas has significantly slowed down over the last 20 years. Poorly maintained roads have been a characteristic of most trunk roads and major roads within cities. These poor roads have oftentimes been blamed for causing car accidents. Many accidents attributed to these potholes in roads have been reported in Zimbabwe. Statistics released by police in 2016 indicated that roads have become death traps with an average of 2000 people dying each year (Herald Newspaper, 25 April 2016). Thus, many operators lament on the poor states of roads as they contribute to road traffic accidents. Besides causing accidents, operators also indicated that their vehicles are also at risk as they would require service before time.  Public Transport Operators are some of the most affected motorists, since it is their core business to move people and goods from place to place.

Apart from poor roads there is inadequate infrastructure that makes conducting business for Public Transport Operators very difficult. There are very insufficient Bus Stops and Bus Stations. In most urban areas most commuters are now used to using informal bus stop. These informal bus stops are places that are usually associated with landmarks. A church, a school, a big tree, a hump, a stop sign, a big rock on the side of the road, an informal market or a shopping complex, these are some of the landmarks that become bus stops. This is just some evidence of the lack of enough Bus Stops for commuters and Public Transport Operators. Most cities have Bus Stations, but these have also proved to be too few. This makes it even more difficult for Operators to pick up commuters in city centers across Zimbabwe

ZUPCO Bus

Introduction of ZUPCO and the Public Transport Subsidy

The introduction of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) subsidy by the Zimbabwean Government has been termed the “ZUPCO crisis” by many informal Public Transport Operators. In 2019, the government decided to reintroduce mass public transport by subsiding its parastatal (ZUPCO) so that commuters can pay much affordable fares. With the subsidy put in place, independent commuter operators are faced with a price competition challenge. Since ZUPCO is subsidized, its prices are almost 2 times less than what the independent players are charging. Currently, private transport operators are charging between ZWL$7 for between 15 and 25 km around Bulawayo while ZUPCO is charging between ZWL$2 and ZWL$4 for the same distance. One of the operators indicated that they used to do an average of 12 trips per day, but they have dropped to 6 since the introduction of ZUPCO.

Besides the subsidy issue, Operators lament the selective application of the law by law enforcement and regulators as some of the commuter omnibuses can operate without certificates of fitness and other legal requirements. Most of the operators highlight that traffic law enforcers are biased when enforcing road traffic and passenger transport regulations. Operators indicated that for instance, a ZUPCO omnibus licensed to ferry a maximum of 15 passengers is being permitted to ferry up to 18 passengers by traffic Police officers thereby endangering the passengers.

From the aforesaid, it is evident that the transport industry has been hard hit by the COVID19 epidemic. Encouraging people to stay home and actively practice social distancing might be the most effective measure in preventing the spread of the virus. Reducing the number of Public Transportation vehicles that can move people around in cities and rural areas will cut off the primary means by which people move. We are yet to see what this will mean for the Public Transport Industry going forward but informal and formal Public Transport Operators are reeling from these measures and other pre-existing problems that have plagued them for more than a decade.

Tuverl Wins The Georgetown ABC New Venture Competition

Hope Ndhlovu

In early February 2020 the Tuverl team won the Georgetown African Business Conference Pitch Competition, held at the Georgetown University’s McDonough Business School in Washington DC, USA. GTABC and Young African Professionals DC Network partner each year to put on a pitch competition in conjunction with the conference. The competition brings in startups from across the African continent and the Diaspora, giving them the chance to present to a panel of judges.

The Georgetown’s 5th annual Africa Business Conference – both a signature event of the University and a unique student-led collaboration between the McDonough School of Business and the Walsh School of Foreign Service’s African Studies Program. Each conference has built upon the ones before it, bringing together business and policy leaders, mixing in the dynamism and innovation of students and startup founders, and helping shape conversations around business across the African continent. 

The goal has always remained the same; showcasing the growth and impact of the private sector across the African continent and facilitating a discussion on the opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed to continue this success.

 

There were 5 finalists that included Tuverl represented by the CEO Hope Ndhlovu, BatteryXchange represented its CMO Aubrey Yeboah, HealthCare Mobile represented its CEO Jennie Nwokoye, MedPay represented by its Co-Founder Jose Zefu Kimpalou, and Nutritional Energy represented by its Founder: Batel Teka.

 

BatteryXchange is a mobile application that helps cellphone users stay connected and fully charged by locating nearby kiosk machines that dispense portable batteries for users to rent while on-the-go.

HealthCare Mobile is a USSD application that allows users to register, connect, and pay for available Community Health Workers within their communities to provide home based primary care services.

HealthCare Mobile is a USSD application that allows users to register, connect, and pay for available Community Health Workers within their communities to provide home based primary care services.

Nutritional energy bar that incorporates teff—an ancient grain native to Ethiopia that is high in protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. It’s a unique, incredibly delicious, and satisfying snack with a mission to donate 10% of profits towards education in Ethiopia

Each venture was rated on the following on a scale from 1-5 with 1= poor and 5= very good. Each pitch will be five minutes followed by three minutes of question and answer period from judges. Judges include practitioners in Emerging Markets Impact Investing and Serial Entrepreneurs focused on building inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems.

  • Business DescriptionClearly details the venture, what it does, and its sustainability.
  • The Solution: Solves the stated problem, is viable and practical.
  • Market Analysis/Product/Service: The product or service is innovative and has a unique value proposition compared to products/services in the market.
  • Revenue: The presenters provide an adequate financial overview, addresses the resources required for the venture, and offers a reasonable and long-term profitability.
  • Customers: Target market is specific, reachable, and right for the solution.
  • PresentationPitch was clear, concise, compelling, and delivered within the time limit.

The First Place Prize was US$5,000 and included 3 months of I/O Spaces coworking membership. The Second Place Prize was US$2,500. The People’s Choice included 2 round trip Air Maroc plane tickets + free membership to Mansa Colabs peer-to-peer mentoring group and 3 hours of free coaching

 

Sponsors of the Conference and Pitch Competition included YAP DC, Afrexim Bank, Kosmos Energy, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Moroc, Corporate Council on Africa,

Written by Hope Ndhlovu

A look At Public Transportation In Zimbabwe

Tuverl Minibus in Bulawayo Zimbabwe

Public Transport in Zimbabwe relies on roads, railroads, and air in large part because it is a landlocked country.  Air is important for tourism, a critical income producing segment of the economy. Railroads are used for both freight and passenger traffic;  however, most rail traffic is freight. That leaves road transport as the dominant means of transport. By volume, 80% of  traffic and trade are transported by road. Zimbabwe has 88,100 km of classified roads, out of which 17,400 km are paved [DICA].The map above shows that all primary cities and industrial areas are connected by this road network. ZINARA, a parastatal, is responsible for operating the nation’s road system.  It is funded by tolls, vehicle registration fees, and license fees. Primary and secondary roads together carry about 70% of vehicular traffic.  Primary connecting roads constitute about 5% of the road network are considered to be in fair to good shape.  

Public Transport in Zimbabwe relies on roads, railroads, and air in large part because it is a landlocked country.  Air is important for tourism, a critical income producing segment of the economy. Railroads are used for both freight and passenger traffic;  however, most rail traffic is freight. That leaves road transport as the dominant means of transport. By volume, 80% of  traffic and trade are transported by road. Zimbabwe has 88,100 km of classified roads, out of which 17,400 km are paved [DICA].The map above shows that all primary cities and industrial areas are connected by this road network. ZINARA, a parastatal, is responsible for operating the nation’s road system.  It is funded by tolls, vehicle registration fees, and license fees. Primary and secondary roads together carry about 70% of vehicular traffic.  Primary connecting roads constitute about 5% of the road network are considered to be in fair to good shape.  

A Map of Zimbabwe

 

 

In contrast, secondary roads constitute about 14% of the road network and have not been maintained well.    More than 70% of Zimbabwe’s regional and primary roads were built in the 1960s and early ’70s which exceeded their 20-year design life resulting in the unavailability of good quality road transportation.  In Harare, for example, news reports document a crisis caused by potholes.

 Let’s take a closer look at Harare.  It is the capital and largest city in Zimbabwe; is a hub for road, rail and air transport; and is home for Zimbabwe’s administrative, commercial, mining, and manufacturing sectors.   In terms of transit, essential rail-lines connect Harare to mining centers and the mining centers to critical points in South Africa and the port of Beira, Mozambique.  

 Administratively Harare is a metropolitan province, which incorporates Chitungwiza town and Epworth. Harare itself has a population of greater than 1.5 million, [World Bank].  It is a modern, well-planned city that houses government institutions and an international airport. Numerous suburbs surround the city.  Counting suburban residents increases the population to 2.8 million people. More information on the history and culture of Harare may be found on Zim Field Guide.  Though services such as water system, roads, and traffic lights remain an issue, the city council seems to be gradually tackling maintenance issues.  

 Vehicular traffic comprises the bulk of transit in Harare.  It is composed of individually owned cars, publicly owned transport buses and privately owned mini-buses, and taxis. ZUPCO (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company) is the only government owned public transport company.  Most people, however, use privately-owned commuter minibuses.  These Minibuses don’t have published schedules or routes, but are widely used. Non-published routes and schedules are learned by local commuters.   Though informal transportation plays a crucial role in short and medium distance transportation, it still creates a plethora of problems

 

The competition in the informal transportation results in drivers and conductors fighting for passengers at bus terminals. Drivers tends to be aggressive during peak hours because of perceived demand and costs, where safety is compromised. The lack of accountability, poor maintenance of vehicles and minimal regulation by local authority officials exacerbates poor service delivery. The present urban transport system in Zimbabwe is dominated by privately operated minibuses is unsustainable as it is characterized by high levels of a traffic jam, travel delays, and unreliability as well as irregular bus fares.

 The introduction of mass transit involving both public and private investment partnerships will help to curb this problem and create smarter urban transportation systems. Mass transit provides solutions to the social, economic, energy and environmental challenges in the city of Harare. 

Written by Hope Ndhlovu

Tuverl Wins The 2019 World Bank Youth Summit

Hope Ndhlovu wins World Bank Youth Summit Pitch Competition

Tuverl won the World Bank Youth Summit Pitch Competition held from 2-3 December 2019 in Washington D.C. at the World Bank Headquarters. Tuverl was 1 of 5 finalists from 885 applicants from 96 countries around the world. Tuverl was represented at the competition by its Co-Founder and CEO Hope Tariro Ndhlovu.

Established in 2013, the World Bank Youth Summit is an annual event hosted by the World Bank Group (WBG) to engage with youth globally on the most pressing topics facing our generation. The theme for this year’s WBG Youth Summit is Smarter Cities for a Resilient Future.

Cities are places of opportunity. Globally, 4 billion people – more than half the global population – live in cities. By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, and a third of the world’s population will be housed in cities with 1 million or more inhabitants. Most of this growth will occur in developing countries.

 

Rapid urbanization at this scale presents unparalleled challenges. Increasing population density, shocks from environmental pressures, growing infrastructure demands, and the increased expectations from residents and visitors for basic services are straining already limited resources.

The 2019 Youth Summit Competition challenged young changemakers to harness smart technology to:

  1. Address the rising impacts of climate change and pollution in urban cities; and/or
  2. Promote urban inclusion to enhance social, political, and economic empowerment

This year’s competition received a total of 885 proposals across 98 countries and remote as Somalia and Yemen. This year’s five finalists’ entrepreneurs seek to address problems that lie at the intersection of technology, climate resilience, transportation, urban inclusion, or waste management for cities, which will impact the future of our youth and generations to come.

 

The finalists included Tuverl from Zimbabwe, Khaalisisi from Nepal, Quipu from Colombia, Box from India, SOSO Care from Nigeria. Tuverl won the Jury Prize, finishing in 1st position in this pool of 5 finalists. The Box won the Audience Prize.

 

 

 

 

Tuverl is an app that seeks to make Public Transport, cheaper, reliable and more accessible to millions of commuters across African countries, by helping Operators reduce operational inefficiencies, optimize their routes and increase their revenue.

We leverage Smartphones, Cloud Computing, Geolocation, and Fintech to improve and optimize Public Transport and how commuters in African countries pay for it, starting with Zimbabwe.

The Box is the first-of-its-kind sustainable emergency shelter built by Green the Gene for people fleeing from violence, escaping adverse climate crises, or displaced due to natural disasters. It acts as a mechanism to help restore personal security, self-sufficiency, and dignity in times of crisis and displacement. The Box comes in a lightweight completely energy independent “shelter kit” which can be transported quickly and at scale.

Khaalisisi is a waste management platform that connects local waste entrepreneurs – Khaalisisi friends with waste sellers. There are approximately 13,000 Khaalisisi friends in Kathmandu. The company is connected to 250 of these waste entrepreneurs. It is a doorstep recycling program where waste hoarders like households, offices, schools, embassies and government bodies are paid for their waste and get reports about their recycling.

Quipu is a digital marketplace platform for micro-merchants that builds credit, offers a digital means of exchange to previously cash-based, offline, unbanked populations, and unlocks the untapped economic potential of the informal economy. By bringing informal economies online at the touch of a smartphone, Quipu is revolutionizing how data can be used as a community asset and enable the redesign of informal economies so they can grow resilient and (re)develop without having to rely on the global economic systems that marginalize them. 

 SOSO Care is an insuretech social enterprise that aims to use recyclable garbage as a financial resource enabling millions of uninsured slum dwellers, mostly pregnant women and kids, to access micro health insurance and gain points on food stamps.  By linking garbage to healthcare access, micro capital and food stamps, we are killing 2 birds with 1 stone in addressing poor healthcare access, sanitation and environmental sustainability and access to food.

The competition judges included Edward Hsu, Najada Kumbuli, Sanjeet Pandit, Xiaomin Mou, Lisa da Silva, Jan Debets, Lesly Goh, and Suprotik Basu .

Edward Hsu is currently a Senior Advise for Disruptive Technologies within the World Bank Group’s Infrastructure Vice Presidency.

Najada Kumbuli specializes in renewable energy and financial inclusion. She has led the development and execution of several investment strategies focusing on women empowerment, access to finance and climate change.

Sanjeet Pandit is the Global Head for Smart Cities practice at Qualcomm, Inc USA and responsible for Carrier and Ecosystem relationships in this domain.

Xiaomin Mou is a senior investment professional with over a decade of venture capital experience in the emerging markets. She currently heads IFC’s venture capital funds and co-investments program within the Disruptive Technologies and Funds Department.

Lisa Da Silva is IFC’s Global Cities Lead. She is responsible for identifying and formulating IFC’s response to existing issues and emerging trends affecting cities, and developing the tools and knowledge needed for staff to support city clients.

Jan Debets is a Project Manager at Business Angels Europe, the association that represents the interest of 40,000 angel investors towards the European institutions

Lesly Goh, World Bank Senior Technology Advisor and former World Bank Group Chief Technology Officer.

Suprotik (Protik) Basu is a Founder, Partner and Head of Sustainability and Impact at Blue Orange Sustainable Capital, which was launched in 2017 to mobilize and invest private capital to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, without compromising impact or risk-adjusted returns.

Participating and eventually winning World Bank Youth Summit Pitch Competition was an enriching experience that helped our team validate our product, and business model. We received a lot of invaluable feedback from the judging panel and the audience. We managed to continue developing our networking and building relationships with organizations and individuals that will be pivotal in helping us gain more traction and scale our company.

Written by Hope Ndhlovu