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Rwanda boda boda riders protest against cashless system, high meter charges

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By Johnson Kanamugire

Rwanda transport docket officials are back to the drawing board to reconsider charges linked to transition to the cashless system after commercial motorcyclists decried losses.

Motor taxi operators in the capital Kigali staged protests Thursday over high fare meter charges and insurance premiums hike, saying this has caused business losses.

The government this month mandated all fleet in the motorcycle transport services to migrate to the cashless payment system, requiring operators to install and use GPS-enabled fare technology that allows automated computation of travelled distance and fare settlement.

Operators remit a margin of 10 per cent of their earnings to YEGO Innovision Ltd, a subsidiary of a Singaporean firm licensed to provide the technology, while another chunk goes into settling charges of the transaction in linked payment system facilitated by the telecoms and banks.

Government banks on the cashless system to streamline urban mobility as it effectively ends fare haggling between riders and passengers, but it has also offered an opportunity to formalise the sector that attracts more than 30,000 operators in the capital Kigali and secondary cities.

However, operators who converged to protest the mandatory use of meters that have been in effect since January 7, say this has caused operational costs to soar, further ballooning bills that had risen after insurance firms tripled annual insurance covers a year ago.

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The cover increased to $177 from $62.9 in most instances as insurance companies moved to cover high expenses linked to compensating victims of accidents.

Motorcycle operators who spoke to The EastAfrican say their miseries are further exacerbated by the ever-fluctuating pump prices, which have been rising since September reaching $1.2 per litre of petrol in December from $1.06, while a litre of diesel rose to $1.1 from $1.03.

“Now the meter charges are taking away the little profit margin that was left after paying all these high bills on top of taxes, licence fees and union charges, among others,” complained Manasseh Gasana, a Kigali-based commercial motorcycle operator.

Unhappy Moto riders converged in parts of Kigali Thursday where they staged peaceful protests which briefly blocked road traffic as they sought the attention of authorities.

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), which regulates the transport sector, has not commented on the matter, but sources told The EastAfrican that transport docket officials held a crisis meeting with representatives of the motorcyclists and promised to address their grievances.

“We have agreed on a one-week period to look into motorcyclists’ claims over high meter charges and linked losses so they can be resolved. Concerned agencies are going to re-work the formula based on demands of the motorcyclists,” said Daniel Ngarambe, head of FERWACOTAMO, the umbrella body of commercial motor taxi cooperatives.



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