Tanzanian startup Safiri has created the digital infrastructure that enables transit operators to manage their operations and provide more – and better – services to customers.
Launched in June 2022, Safiri is digitising the management of transit companies, replacing pen and paper with software in local languages, point of sale devices for the issuance of tickets, and GPS trackers for vehicles.
“In Africa, transportation companies use pen and paper to do all their operations. From issuing a ticket, to managing sales, to tracking their vehicles, everything is manual. As a result of this, these business lose up to 30 per cent of their revenue due to cash leakages, and there’s no way for their customers to search, compare, buy tickets, send or track goods online. The only way available is to physically travel to the booking office and transact using cash,” founder Abraham Itule told Disrupt Africa.
“We’re basically digitising the entire end-to-end experience. By enabling transit operators to manage their operations digitally, travellers can now also be able to search, compare, book tickets and send goods online.”
Safiri is also mapping African cities, and collecting the locations of stations and other points of interest to enable travellers to get to their destination.
“You can see where the nearest station is based on your location, what time the next mode of transport is coming, and where to get off. Basically we’re doing for African cities what City Mapper has done for London,” Itule said.
The idea and initial development process began after Itule took a holiday to Tanzania in late-2017, where he was inspired by the challenges he encountered when it came to accessible and reliable public transport information. He worked on a solution as a side project for a while, before registering Safiri in 2020 and finally launching the service in 2022.
“The absence of such a platform was due to the transportation companies’ reliance on outdated pen-and-paper processes for their operations. Realising the need to address this underlying issue, I shifted my focus to tackle the problem at its core by digitising the operations of transportation companies,” he said.
Fully bootstrapped, but now seeking funding, Safiri already has more than 200 transport companies, owning between them around 700 buses, using its digital solution for ticketing services and parcels, while more than 20 cargo companies have chosen Safiri for efficient goods transportation. The number of users engaged on its platform totals around 70,000, and it has issued over one million tickets so far.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but this signifies a great start,” Itule said. “Safiri’s adoption has resulted in tangible benefits for transportation businesses. By digitising their operations and streamlining processes, operators have reported increased revenue streams, reduced cash leakages, and improved overall efficiency. The data-driven insights provided by Safiri’s platform have empowered businesses to make informed decisions and optimise their operations for better financial outcomes.”
The startup expanded to Zambia in May, where it is on track to onboard around 10 bus companies, and soon plans to move into DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.
“Safiri’s expansion into new markets and the growing numbers of engaged users and transactions further solidify its position as a leading digital solution in the transportation sector,” Itule said.