Riders protest as SafeBoda tweaks payment system, lowers bonuses

SafeBoda riders are sad. Customers are happy.


Because it turns out, the Ugandan-grown ride-hailing firm is finding it hard to make both parties feel satisfied at the same time.

On Friday, SafeBoda altered its payment system a bit. While previously, passengers would make payments only in multiples of 500 and 1000, now you can pay in any multiple.

In the new payment system, passengers are now charged figures like Shs1100, 1300 and so on.

This has come with a number of challenges. First of all, it’s hard to get CHANGE in such figures for passengers using cash.

When you are paying via cashless, there is no problem.

But there is a significant number of ride-hailers who use cash to pay for trips. And this is really annoying SafeBoda riders.

SafeBoda Bonuses reduced

In another development that pissed off riders, SafeBoda slashed the amount it tops up for its riders by a percentage of 50.

If you use the SafeBoda app, you must have realized that the application charges an amount that is lower than the trip would normally cost.

To keep the riders motivated, SafeBoda always tops up to make up for the amount you didn’t give the rider.

Originally, SafeBoda was adding 80% to the amount the app counts. For instance, if a trip is charged Shs2000, the company gives the rider more 1600 to make it Shs3600.

Now, this has been reduced to 40%, implying that the rider will now get a bonus of Shs800, putting the trip cost at Shs2800.

After observing this, riders kicked off demonstrations, with some promising not to work on Saturday.

Some even went to the company head offices located along Bukoto Street in Kamwokya but they didn’t get answers, according to a SafeBoda rider that brought me to work today.

He was not wearing the SafeBoda customized attire. Asked why, he said he woke up not to use the app today. But changed his mind when his friend told him that the issue had been rectified.

But when we ended the trip, I was charged Shs1200 and he was given a bonus of Shs140.

Introduction of incentives

After changing the payment denominations and cutting bonuses offered to riders, SafeBoda also introduced another initiative: bonuses.

Here, the company will be offering Shs15000 to riders who make twelve trips. Most riders feel this is unfair. (We talked to some riders we found in cahoots discussing to protest the initiative today).

In 2018, SafeBoda run this project but it was later canceled. Then they would offer the incentive on 10 trips. But the amount was Shs10,000.

The initiative had been introduced after the company observed that some riders would switch off the apps early in the evening or some would start work late. Some riders also tend to avoid trips that are a bit far from where they are located.

It should be noted that on top of ever-increasing fuel costs, riders also buy their own airtime for data and phone calls to passengers. Most passengers don’t make calls.

Speaking to The TowerPost, SafeBoda publicist Damalie Wasukira said that they are re-introducing the incentive to motivate riders.

“We need to be able to provide quality service to our customers (passengers) and for us to do that, we need to make sure that when they order, they are able to get a ride,” she said.

Complicated business model

SafeBoda is largely popular for the role its playing in professionalizing the Boda Boda industry. Traveling with the company makes you feel safe, i.e. you are not scared of the rider turning against you to steal your property and the riders obey traffic rules.

But this is not the only reason most people use the app. The vast majority of users are also attracted by the subsidized trip costs.

This is why most analysts believe it’s going to be hard for ride-hailing companies to pull in a profit, considering how much cash they burn to subsidize the trips.

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