6 December 2017

Namibia: Technology Catches Windhoek Taxis

IT WAS just a matter of time before somebody equipped their taxi with Wi-Fi in Namibia after operators in South Africa did the same.

And that somebody had to be three young men - Andrea Morelli (26), Chomba Ngambi (31) and Joseph Makombe (30).

They operate three taxis under the name Pamwe Transport. Pamwe means together in Oshiwambo.

With less than three months on the road, the taxis are attracting attention and a steady clientele base.

I caught one of the taxis from Katutura into town last week. It was a joyful 40-minute drive.

Ferdinand Nghitukwa was on the wheel. At 26, Nghitukwa described himself as a professional driver after having been on the road since 2012 when he finished school.

He was so calm as he manoeuvred his way through the early morning Windhoek traffic.

Some of his confidence appeared to come from being one of those in charge of a taxi that draws attention.

Nghitukwa admitted this.

"This taxi with the Wi-Fi sets me apart. The customers' response is terrific. They get in to get connected and then they do not want to leave.

"I rarely get dissatisfied customers. The Wi-Fi is a bonus, but having young people call me to pick them up from parties at night is a plus because they feel my taxi is safer with the GPS tracking system," he said.

Nghitukwa added: "I could be a professional driver for the longest times, but it's fulfilling knowing that I get to drive off the car and own it one day."

On board with me was Hafeni Kanjembo (26), Stephanie Goaesis (21) and Cecil Kaimu.

Kanjembo, Goaesis and I were surfing the net, while Kaimu said she did not have a smartphone.

Goaesis said Wi-Fi in taxis "is something different".

"It sets the taxis apart. I will keep a lookout for it whenever I need a taxi," she said.

Although Kaimu did not have a smartphone, she said installing Wi-Fi in taxis makes a huge difference to those who use the internet.

"I hope it makes a genuine change in the lives of the people who need it," she said.

Although Hafeni said it was a cool idea, he said the distances in Windhoek are short.

"It is not necessary to log on to the Wi-Fi. It could be useful to long distance passengers maybe," Hafeni said.

Morelli, Ngambi and Makombe started the taxi business in mid-September this year.

They wanted to ensure that passengers got a unique experience at the standard N$10 per ride.

The Windhoek-based company specialises in taxi management and transport consultancy.

Morelli, the manager of Pamwe Transport, who resides in Windhoek, has a degree in accounting and pursuing another in informatics at the Namibia University of Science and Technology.

He partnered with Ngambi, who is the sales executive, and Makombe, the executive director of the Performance Development Centre, a sister company of Pamwe Transport.

Apart from the taxi service, Pamwe offers an innovative concept in the local transport industry.

The company helps transport companies to offer their passengers a better travelling experience by providing free Wi-Fi, keeping their vehicles neat and tidy.

Also, the company trains passenger vehicle drivers in defensive driving, road safety, customer care, emotional intelligence and time management.

The company also manages vehicle fleets by offering GPS trackers, lowering fuel consumption and speed restrictions to 100km/h to ensure safety.

Morelli said the challenge is the outreach programme at the moment although the company is growing.

Ngambi is currently pursuing an MBA at the University of Namibia, while Makombe has two degrees in strategic marketing and strategic human resources from the International University of Management.

Makombe said their niche is the youth and people who rely on public transport and the need to access the internet.

"We aim to make Wi-Fi access to everyone. In the future when our fleet expands, we hope to have more people directly benefiting from this initiative," he enthused.

Ngambi chipped in: "We only have three fully operational taxis on the market for now. It is a pilot project, but with time, we hope to increase the fleet."

Pamwe Transport also offers driver hire, which is a staffing service that helps reduce financial and employment risks with reliable and safe drivers.

The company also manages fleets on behalf of their clients, and whether you own or lease your fleet, the efficiency and success of it are determined by the tools they have to run your vehicle, such as the GPS tracker.

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