NTSA now puts brakes on ‘popular’ bus ride-hailing services out to displace rowdy Matatus and suspend them from operating on Kenyan roads

One of SWVL's buses in Nairobi. (courtesy)
  • The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has barred app-run shuttles from operating in the country.
  • NTSA say the digital matatu and bus-hailing services will remain suspended until they get the set permits or seek exemption.
  • They were becoming especially popular with the Kenyan working class looking to comfort and keen to avoid the chaos associated with matatus.

The popular bus ride-hailing services, Little Shuttle and SWVL, Egyptian ride-sharing bus service, which is fast gaining traction with Kenyans tired of rowdy matatus will no longer be available for the time being.

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has barred app-run shuttles from operating in the country dealing a blow to Kenyans who had come to love and become accustomed to the convenience and comfort that came with the bus ride-hailing services.

In an interview with Business Daily, NTSA’s Director General Francis Meja that the service has been operating in the country illegally.

“Let them just follow the law so that we can facilitate them to do business in Kenya... It’s a fact that you cannot do business in Kenya without a proper licence.” Said Mr Meja.

NTSA say the digital matatu and bus-hailing services will remain suspended until they get the set permits or seek exemption. The PSV permit requirements include being a member of a sacco, must have staff that includes mechanics, fixed routes among others.

Little Shuttle started operations in February, while SWVL has been in the market since the start of the year. 

The point-to-point shuttles which operate a time and distance-based billing service anchored on the same concept of the taxi-hailing apps. They were becoming especially popular with the Kenyan working class looking to comfort and keen to avoid the chaos associated with matatus.

The latest development comes barely a month after SWVL secured Sh1.5 billion ($15 million) to finance an aggressive route expansion plan in Nairobi.

It is not yet clear if the ‘rogue’ matatu industry in Kenya is fighting back to displace the digital matatu and bus-hailing services since for any business to be granted permission to operate in the country they have to meet all the condition before hand.

A press statement from Little shuttle service chief executive Kamal Budhabhatti said they were told that Little Shuttle did not have the right kind of license.

“I am not sure if the decision to stop us was from the authorities or they were under pressure from the public transport cartels,” Budhabhatti said.

The Little Cab boss maintained that they were properly licensed and would not have been running the service for the last three quarters if they did not have proper documents.

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