Bulawayo Startup Wins World Bank Youth Summit Competition

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar

A few months ago we wrote about the World Bank Youth Summit’s Competition 2019 which was focusing on smart city solutions. As fate would have it Tuverl a transport startup from Bulawayo was amongst the 5 finalists to compete and ended up winning the competition!

Tuverl was part of 886 applicants from 96 countries across the globe and from there only 5 startups were chosen to pitch their businesses in Washington DC between 2 and 3 December.

The CEO of Tuverl Hope Tariro Ndhlovu who was in attendance shared a brief of Tuverl’s pitch with us which we felt does a great job of explaining the problem the company is trying to tackle:

In most African countries, Public Transport is an industry that is run by private companies; millions of small to medium enterprises, whose buses and minibuses operate without any schedules or timetables. This makes Public Transport very unreliable to commuters, who are often late to work or school as a result. Drivers also waste time, fuel, and man hours trying to locate commuters along their designated routes or park in one place waiting for commuters to find them. This is highly inefficient.

Commuters struggle with locating Buses and Minibuses as they are often piled up at “Taxi” Ranks or docked at inconvenient locations. On boarding Public Transport, commuters often experience delays as drivers park in at one bus stop or drive around in search for passengers to fill up the vehicle.

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.

Tuverl leverages Geolocation, Fintech, and Machine Learning to improve and optimize Public Transport and how commuters in African countries pay for it, starting with Zimbabwe.

We have 2 mobile apps. A Commuter App and an Operator App. Using the Commuter App, Commuters can live track minibuses, book long distance buses, hail a Taxi and pay for their fares using fintech.

The Operator App empowers Drivers and Operators with tools to broadcast the live locations of their vehicles, manage their fleets, and process fares digitally.

The Public Transport Industry in Africa has a Total Addressable Market of US $65B. We can capture a Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM) of roughly US$10B. The SOM includes our primary Target Market.

The above target market includes Commuters between the age of 18-24 years, and Operators and Drivers between the ages of 20-34 years. These commuters and operators live in Urban Cities, they own smartphones, are smartphone literate, have a Mobile Banking and generally use social media regularly. Public Transport Operators are owners of small to medium enterprises with a small fleet of vehicles ranging from 1-10.

These vehicles could include Minibuses with a capacity of 16 passengers or Buses with a capacity of 65 passengers.

We are a Bulawayo based startup. We are conducting a pilot. We hope the pilot program will help us fine tune our product and prepare us for a launch. We are hoping to launch our product early next year (2020)

Hope Tariro Ndhlovu – CEO & Co-Founder of Tuverl

When Tuverl launches in 2020 it appears the company won’t be competing with the likes of Vaya in the ride-hailing market using a different and seemingly more affordable model since people get to track minibuses which means the cost on the customer is spread amongst the 16-65 people who get to board the minibus/bus.


What’s your take?

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  1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    Interesting idea. Though it would be nice to discover startups absent some pitch. All too often startups appear for, and sometimes win, pitches but with almost no visibility on the ground. When pitches are over and done with, they disappear into the background, only to reappear when another pitch needs to be done.

  2. Frank

    I think this will flop. Kombis are efficient and rarely will you wait more than 5 minutes for a kombi to pitch up.

    Also cost of data considering this uses location services.

    It may work for longish distances but for urban commutes I doubt it will work

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      In the event that it does, lessons will be learnt that can be used at a later point by others in the ecosystem. Nothing is ever a complete waste 💪🏾

  3. Anonymous

    Congratulations team, work on it!

  4. Cherish

    I commend Tariro and his team for trying to come up with solutions that work in our environment. However, there are some issues that may help them along their journey which they might want to consider:

    1. Remember there was the initiative to pay for fares using Ecocash and that flopped. How will the start-up have operators accepting payment using fintech instead of cash? My understanding is that cash helps combis to further sell the cash or to purchase fuel on the black market so that they won’t have to wait in queues for fuel.

    2. I thought one of the issues would be to deal with time. My thoughts would have been to come up with ways of establishing flows on the different routes (I know google maps can pick up the flow of traffic). Some research would have to be done to establish the average combis required to service certain routes especially at peak times.

    Then the allocation of combis can then be done with specific times in place. So combis can be deployed in various places not just servicing one route but servicing based on need. The records of where each combi will be and its efficiency in time keeping would award it “points” that would bring real benefits to the operator when redeemed (that can be figured out). This would obviously need cooperation with the public authorities. Hard but I think its achievable.

    Having done this, all the commuter needs to know is to be by the busstop at a certain time everyday and get their combi. This is what other people in other countries do and its efficient.

    3. Number 2 would then remove the need for the commuter app. Well at least in Zimbabwe. With the current situation in Zimbabwe, people are very price sensitive and using data to get transport might not really be worthwhile. People might chose to wake up earlier and have ample time to wait at the busstop etc. not forking out money.

    4. Lastly, I would suggest you pick a country where people find it easy to pay using fintech and if you still want to go the commuter app route, then the internet costs have to be low vis-a-vis people’s incomes. Moreover, if you go the Number 2 route, then you are better off in a country where it is easiest to work with local authorities.

    5. Like Imi Vanhu Musadaro said, it is sad that these start-ups don’t really gain traction. I think your solution Tariro can be refined and worked with to solve a real human need across the continent. You just have to have a long haul approach, avoid diverting the funds to other things and don’t give up. You have already received attention therefore it means even if you need to get more funding, you have doors to knock on and be heard. So even if you change the whole concept, what matters is being able to come up with a solution to our transport system.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      All great and well thought out contributions, thanks for the feedback

  5. Cap’n

    It will be a uphill task for it to succeed in Zimbabwe. Data is expensive and there isn’t much of an intensive for commuters to change their ways. It may work in low density suburbs when it isn’t rush hour. That significant reduces the market. I see it working in cities like Nairobi, ridiculously cheaper data making people be more willing to play around with tech.

    1. Farai Mudzingwa

      It’s an uphill task to succeed everywhere but as always lessons will be learnt