16 January 2016

Rwanda: AC Group Drives Kigali Transport Into Digital Age

interview

Patrick Buchana  is a 25 year old Rwandan born in Uganda. He studied at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. Today he owns a $450,000 electronic public transport payment company known as AC Group which he runs as the Chief Executive Officer. It is not only the first of its kind in the region, but globally. Agnes Bateta had a chance to learn more about this venture and the man behind it. Below are the excerpts.

Please give us a brief background to AC-Group.

AC Group is a technology company that is providing smart transport solutions. The company recently launched card-based automated fare collection system for public transport in Kigali and has since replaced the use of cash on public transport buses.

The city's biggest bus operator, Kigali Bus Services, signed on and is looking at having a cashless transport system by the beginning of February.

Why such a business?

AC Group being a smart card solution provider in Rwanda, we looked for the pain points in the transport system and found that bus operators were losing up to 30% of their revenue to fraud due to cash handling on buses.

We sat with them and tried to find a solution to this problem. The solution we are providing is the first of its kind in the world, but we tried to tailor it to fit our local market which we have done well in collaboration with all key stakeholders (Government, the commuters and the bus operators)

How much have you invested in the business?

So far, I have invested more than $450,000.

Before starting up this business, did you get training from anywhere? If so, where?

AC Group has a very competent team that is working on the system components, the software and the on ground operators.

We carried out a pilot for eight months that helped us understand what we are dealing with and how to overcome certain huddles.

We also have other strategic partners like BRDC Bank and Pivot Access with the eSale agents that are creating a conducive environment for the client to enjoy the Tap&Go experience.

How many customers have you signed up?

More than 10,000 now and by the end of the month, we are looking at more than 30,000 just before cash is completely taken off the bus.

How many people have you employed to run the business?

We have employed more than 85 people with an aim of giving the client an all-round experience, all the time and anywhere they need it.

How does one use the Tap&GO?

With Tap&Go, you purchase a card, top it up using any of our mobile agents in the taxi park and at bus stops or any eSale agent that sells cashpower in your neighborhood.

You will also be able to top it up using mobile money, Tigo Cash and Airtel Money as well as mobile banking.

With the card topped up, you can board the bus and enjoy a 10% discount on all your trips. One other good thing is that you stand a chance to win a motorbike and different prizes ranging from laptops to smart phones so keep tapping and enjoy your trips with Tap&Go.

Every business has its challenges; what are yours?

We are still facing challenges of conductors that would like to fight the system that brings order and stop theft. But some commuters also don't understand the importance of the card, but we are trying to educate them all the time.

Any advice for other young people?

There is no age limit to doing something that greatly impacts your country's economy. It was proven by our elders that fought and took charge of the country at different young ages so don't let age be a hindrance. Secondly, passion and patriotism are characters to always carry with you and most importantly - Prayer and thanksgiving to the Almighty.

You talked of this system supporting government in creating a cashless economy. Please explain how.

Creating a cashless economy involved very many players and sectors and transport is one of them.

By replacing cash and receipts payments with a contactless card that can be topped by using mobile and bank payment channels, we contributing towards creating a cashlight transport system that in turn contributes towards the building of a cashless society.

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