As the festive season jets in, majority of Kenyans travel from Nairobi and other cities to join their family and friends upcountry to celebrate together, share memories and experiences of a beautiful year gone and plan for the new year together, making resolutions of do’s and don’ts.
Still, a huge population of Nairobians miss out on this get together sessions upcountry due to lack of means of transport back home, leaving many in panic and stranded at bus stops with thousands others turning to friends and neighbors with private cars for lifts.
JazaGari Swahili for fill your car’s empty seats, aims to solve this menace. Launched this week in Nairobi, JazaGari is an Android app that connects such people with personal car drivers traveling to their home towns or the same destinations e.g. from Nairobi to Nakuru.
“Say you are traveling to Nakuru and your car has four empty seats, JazaGari connects you with other people traveling to Nakuru to fill the four extra seats. You can charge them however much you want and if they agree, then you all travel together, have fun and become friends for life,” said Boniface Githinji, founder & CEO of Sematime.com, the firm behind the carpool app.
JazaGari works simply. Drivers create rides, specify a destination, number of empty seats and cost per seat. Passengers search for rides, pay online or via M-PESA then JazaGari connects them to the drivers. Money is held by JazaGari and drivers only get paid after completing a ride.
After the ride, passengers rate and review drivers and only the best drivers get recommended for future rides.
According to Githinji, his day-to-day job as Sematime CEO, a bulk SMS service for schools, entails a lot of travelling from Nairobi to the countryside to attend events, do meetings and sell services to schools and he thinks he could help some passengers on the way and also make an extra buck in return.
“I am mostly driving alone for long distances and many a times I have always pondered at the possibility of getting other people travelling to the same place to ride with me to kill boredom on the long journeys,” he says. “I thought there had to be a way to connect such travelers with drivers and so I decided to do some research on how to effectively address this problem.”
On his daily commute to work, Githinji says he noticed that most personal cars had only a driver or owner in it and yet there were people sprawling bus terminus awaiting buses and matatus to shuttle them to their destinations. Though some bold personal car drivers would occasionally stop at the bus stops to Jaza their cars, it’s not safe at all.
“In late November 2016, I came across a posting on Facebook by a friend of mine, that was when I knew that I really needed to take this thing seriously,” Githinji said.
And so in the weeks to follow, he would work all day at Sematime then proceed home to work on the app for a few hours before bedtime. On 10th December 2016, he accompanied some relatives to the 2NK Matatu Shuttle booking office in Nairobi, being the Jamhuri Day long weekend, he expected the booking offices to be full of hundreds of people travelling to their homes upcountry but to his surprise, there were no matatus travelling to Nyeri as all had been occupied.
”It was only 9:00AM in the morning. I looked around other booking offices and no matatus were available either; just hundreds of stranded travelers hoping against all odds for an opportunity to get to travel,” Githinji said.
He adds that that bad experience only strengthened his resolve to provide a solution to this menace. Now live as a free download on Google’s Play Store, JazaGari aims to not only bring sanity to Kenyan roads by streamline transport and take on cab hailing apps such as Uber, Mara Moja, Mondo Rides and Little. After the holidays, users will want to share a cab and save money to and from work and though Uber has carpooling services in various markets, it’s yet to unveil them here.
JazaGari might just find its holy grail in the various cities by helping commuters get to and from work safely and at an affordable cost.
Get JazaGari from the Google PlayStore now.