Ride-sharing startup Gawana is set to launch in Rwanda in March, allowing travellers to share journeys and split the cost of fuel.
Gawana, which means “take part” in Swahili, was co-founded by Darcy Dwyer, Rachel Howell and Agnes Nyambura, and will be launched on an invite-only basis in the first quarter of next year.
The aim is to offer travellers a more comfortable and cost competitive alternative to buses, and help car owners travelling long journeys save on fuel by posting their available seats to the Gawana mobile application.
“This concept of ridesharing already takes place on an informal level: cars will stop at the bus station before departing on their journey to pick up stranded travellers in need of a ride,” Dwyer told Disrupt Africa.
“While buses are often full when passing towns along the route, the Gawana mobile application proposes pickup locations along the driver’s intended route so that passengers can reserve their seat in advance.”
Users will eventually be able to use mobile money to pay for their rides. Dwyer said long distance ride-sharing has great potential in East Africa due to the unreliable and inefficient bus system, and the rapid growth in smartphone ownership and mobile payment systems.
The idea for the startup was first sparked during a summer school on entrepreneurship in Europe, and after one co-founder experienced the headache of long distance bus travel in Uganda.
The first prototype was developed as a practicum project for IT master’s students at Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda.
“Ultimately, the goal of Gawana is to introduce ride-sharing in East Africa while providing business opportunities for East Africans,” said Dwyer.
“While sharing economy initiatives like Airbnb have become popular, long distance transport is a serious problem in most African countries. We wanted to bring a sharing economy solution to transport problems.”
Gawana has so far received grant funding, and plans to start a crowdfunding campaign once it has launched its pilot. It plans to expand quickly to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania with the goal of spreading throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.