Ricky Rapa Thomson, one can say, has seen it all, when you talk of starting from scratch to becoming very successful.
As a school dropout, Thomson’s young self could not have envisaged being a significant part of one of Uganda’s greatest entrepreneurship stories.
The Co-founder of Safe-Boda recently sat down with ChimpReports’ Patrick Uma in Gulu on the sidelines of the “Breaking the Mold; unlocking your potential meeting” and shared his success story.
So, tell us what is the story of Thompson and Safeboda?
My story originates from Northern Uganda, I happened to drop out of school at a very young age from Amuca SDA Secondary school in 2006.
I then moved to Kampala and did a number of odd Jobs; First as a security guard with Securex and Security Plus Uganda limited. I worked at Akamwesi Hostel among other areas as Askari.
My Boss, then was Ms. Julian Omala, commonly known as ‘Mama Cheers,’ the Proprietor of the Hostel, but now, I am sharing the same table with her at this high level (Breaking the Mold) meeting
In 2011, I joined the Boda-boda industry as a rider where I worked very well, I did my job professionally.
In 2012, I started City Tours Company, that actually sold me to very many parts of the world. In this same year I lost a very close friend of mine to a Boda-boda accident and from then, I decided to become an advocate for road safety. I started actively promoting helmet wearing among the Boda-Boda riders and their passengers, and because of that great initiative, many people felt they needed other people like me; and boom, I got people who became interested in my idea and we teamed together with Maxime Dieudonne and Alastair Sussock, and formed what is now known as Safe-Boda.
It was Dieudonne who came up with the idea of creating an app for the service and brought along his friend Alastair, who he met while working in Rwanda.
I am proud to say that despite coming from a vulnerable background, in 2015 I founded one of the most successful companies in Africa
Safeboda today is the leading safe ride in Africa with a fleet of over 13,000 drivers in East and West Africa. We are in Kampala, Mombasa, Nairobi, Nigeria and other African Cities.
We want to bring a solution to the problems of transport sector and make sure that everyone can commute from point A-B in a safe way; all we are doing is making life better.
How can young people who went through or are going the same struggle as you did learn from your experience?
I think it’s true that most young people who are from the north including myself have experience a lot of challenges in the past including traumatic experiences.
First; we should accept that we come from the North; Yes, we went through that tough time, but now we need to capitalize on that;
It’s an added advantage that we can use to create other opportunities for people. Africa is a blessed continent; it does not have many problems like the world want to term it.
I look at all these problems as opportunities that we can capitalize and build on jobs and business empires that the world will live to remember.
Look at what the most successful people did, they capitalized on what people needed, that’s what we need to do.
Secondly; as the young people of Uganda, we need together and inform decision making.
If you look at the challenges facing the young people are mostly on regulations, financing among others.
I encourage young people to contribute to the future in a positive way; stop saying that “there is no jobs, Government is not investing in us,” let’s invest in ourselves.
Your company is growing pretty fast. What are your plans for expansion to other towns in Uganda?
Our challenge for expansion are in three blocks; that is, finance, regulations and skills.
Although the country is very large, we need a lot of money to expand; we also need direct support from the Government so that we can be able to expand.
Regulatory support from the Government will enable us to expand to other cities very easily. We want this model of Safe Boda to be what the Government can appreciate and directly invest in.
While in Nairobi recently, I was privilege to meet a Professor who told me that, in Kenya, they have also opened an Institute that focuses on training motorcycle riders in Nairobi.
For us as Safe Boda, we established the first Motorcycle Training Institute in Africa. I want the Bodaboda riders to have qualifications and regulations, we shall not jump from Kampala to other regions before we put up this plan in place.
We want a Motorcycle Taxi Academy to be in different parts of Uganda. for now, we are looking at 5 regions, it needs a lot of Money but, we believe that, by setting up these Bodaboda Academy, it will help to professionalize the Industry.