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Is the SWVL app really convenient?

In case you’re not sure what the SWVL app is, it is a ride-sharing app in Africa & Asia. It operates buses along fixed routes and allows customers to reserve and pay for them using an app. I had heard a lot about this really popular app, but just as any other Kenyan I doubted it, I heard they were inexpensive and very timely. I still preferred my matatus until I was caught up in a mini stampede outside a matatu where I live; there was a shortage of matatus and enough of human traffic.

I tried getting to the stage earlier, determined to get a matatu but there were still as many people as any other day.

I kept getting late to work and since the HR manager started giving me the stink eye I decided to download the famous SWVL app. I hesitantly booked my first ride on a Tuesday evening for a Wednesday morning shuttle. The estimated time of departure was 07:11am  and estimated time of arrival to my destination was 07:56am, I thought to myself, for once I will not be late to work.

I tried calling Julius, the bus driver, but the app said that I couldn’t call him until my trip started. I found this a bit inconveniencing because I am a planner, I prefer knowing that he was at the right place considering there are many stages around where I live. However, at 07:11am Julius called me and asked “uko?” he sounded a bit rough, just like any other matatu driver, the app calls the driver a “captain” so I guess I thought the driver would sound a bit more professional more like an actual captain. After I explained to him where I was, he seemed to have gotten it quite fast. I was there by 07:11am, I stood at the stage for the next 10 minutes as I watched other Kenyans fight for their matatus, the touts shouting at passengers for being too slow, while others shook their heads disappointed that their only bus ride was already full.

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At exactly 07:20am the shuttle arrived, I calmly entered the bus and quietly sat down. “What’s your number?” Julius asked, I stammered a bit before he asked “what’s your name?” he meant my boarding pass number, I hadn’t taken note of the number, he quickly checked my name and said “26”. If you use this app, you get a number that you must tell the driver when you get in to confirm that you’re in the bus you booked.

For one, I was surprised that there were so many people who actually use the app.

The young, the elderly and people from all walks of life were in the bus but the difference was, it was peaceful. They were no touts shouting at passengers or over loud music, people seemed civilized and respectable. I also didn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder in fear that someone would steal from me. The only issue I had with the ride was the constant stopping, for matatus, when they fill up they don’t necessarily have to keep stopping.

When you order your SWVL ride, remember to factor in the time spent at the bus stops.

I don’t think the app also factors in the time spent in traffic because I still got to work late and didn’t get to the stage at 07:56am. However, when it came to paying I paid 20 shillings and I was pleasantly surprised because usually I pay 100 shillings for a louder, bumpier ride. SWVL seems to have many discounts and offers that just saves you a lot of money, so how do they make money? I wondered.

Nevertheless, I am done with the matatu life am officially a shuttle fan.


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