A growing trend in Nairobi’s middle-class population of booking and riding using mass transit services, Swvl and Little Shuttle has just hit a hurdle, thanks to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).
In a heartfelt email to customers, Little’s CEO Kamal Budhabhatti announced that the company was temporarily halting its mass transit services. “Few days before we got a communication from the authorities that we are not allowed to Hail a shuttle on Little,” read Kamal’s email.
Reason for this, well, turns out Little Shuttle and Swvl are not registered to perform public transport duties in this manner.
“The Authority in undertaking its mandate noted that Little Shuttle and SWVL operate vehicles contrary to the provisions of the PSV Regulations. The vehicles under these hailing app companies have acquired Tours Service License (TSL) but are engaging in commuter service within Nairobi, therefore, contravening the terms of the Tour Service License (TSL).
The Companies the vehicles are operating under are not registered with the National Transport and Safety as required by Section 26 of the Transport and Safety Act No. 33 of 2012.
The two companies have never contacted the Authority to show any intention to operate as commuter service providers.
The Authority has therefore blacklisted the specific vehicles operating under the two companies and their TSL invalidated,” reads NTSA’s notice.
Little Shuttle, on the other hand, says that the authority should have approached them for dialogue as opposed to blocking their operations, “I would have appreciated that they open a dialogue with technology companies like us on how to work together and change the face of public transportation in our country,” says Kamal.
Swvl and Little Shuttle have been operating in Nairobi for a while now, Little Shuttle even offers long-distance travel services under the Little Longhaul branding and Swvl recently announced their plans to expand their operations in the country.
The two companies have swiftly gained traction among the young who prefer to use the app-based mass transit solutions as opposed to Nairobi’s hectic public transport, popularly known as Matatus.
In his email, Little’s CEO notes that the move to block them could have been fueled by cartels in Kenya’s transport industry who have long fought any kind of change coming their way.
“I am not sure if the decision to stop us was from the authorities or they were under pressure from the public transport cartels,” he says.
Swvl is yet to speak out on the matter, but there are reports that authorities were arresting Swvl drivers and towing their vehicles earlier in the day in Nairobi’s CBD.
“We will support the two hailing app companies”
Little’s email to customers notes that as from October 1st, Little Shuttle service shall no longer be available. As we said earlier, Swvl is yet to give a statement on the matter but it’s safe to expect that the company will also halt its operations from the same date.
Despite this big blow, the NTSA claims that they are willing to work with the two companies, “NTSA will support the two hailing app companies when they seek to comply with the PSV Regulations,” reads the notice.
Update: Swvl responds
It appears Swvl is still operating even after their counterpart Little Shuttle temporarily shut down their operations. In a statement to our sister platform, WeeTracker, Swvl Kenya General Manager, Shivachi Muleji said that the company is still confident of the Kenyan market even after the suspension.
“We have been engaging with the government and are still in the process. There have been a few milestones and we are happy with the progress. Well remain committed to ensuring that we build a business that’s fully compliant,” he told WeeTracker.