Ricky Rapa’s Inspiring Story of Building One of the Most Successful Businesses in Uganda

Ricky Papa Thompson is one focussed Ugandan with a drive for business but hinged on his desire to solving problems.

Rapa who had a rough childhood and had to drop out of school, took on the boda boda(Commercial motorbike business) vocation and fluorished in no time. However, Rapa’s life took a different turn after he witnessed a close friend of his die in an accident. His focus and dedication changed by that incident as Rapa then dedicated his life to ensuring the safety of boda boda riders as well as users.
Having witnessed quite a number of fatal accidents on the roads, Ricky decided he had had enough and would be the first to do something about it. He decided to buy a second helmet for his passengers and would also request them to wear it before he would take them. Because of this, he got raving reviews along with countless referrals and recommendations.
In Kampala or in any corner of this country, you do not need a map. You need a boda-boda. Name your destination rest assured to reach your destination as fast as you can. You don’t have to be afraid of the dark; all you need is a trusted one that will take you safely home.
Boda-bodas are the backbone of public transport in Uganda and without doubt, the fastest way to get around the capital city, Kampala. The boda boda motorbike taxi is a staple used by all sectors of society.
Traditionally, the usual way of catching a ride was to venture into any street corner packed with tens of boda bodas or simply waiting for one to pass by.
Getting one, is one thing but reaching your destination safely is another. Safety has long been a concern for those riding boda bodas as the bikes are a leading cause of death and head injury in Kampala. A study conducted at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, by researchers at Makerere University, identified approximately 40% of trauma cases at the hospital to be due to boda-boda accidents.
But now, a new local startup SafeBoda is bringing this classic mode of transport into the technological age by providing the ability to hail a boda boda at the click of a smartphone all thanks to Ricky Rapa Thompson and his team.
When Ricky met Max and Alastair in 2014, the three got together and formed Safe Boda – a company dedicated to creating entrepreneurial opportunities, curve out safe and professional standards in the transportation industry and also encourage a network of Riders who are responsible, foresighted, entrepreneurial and well clued on customer care.
Ricky’s idea was to train the riders, provide them with safety equipment and then connect them to passengers through a hotline. Max then suggested the idea of an App and in 2014 the Safeboda App was born.
Since then, Ricky and his team mates have developed a network of Safe Boda Riders who together have increased safety on the roads, improved the livelihoods of many boda boda riders through aspects of microcredit and micro insurance and also made transport around the city easier, comfortable and more reliable.
Safeboda riders go through a rigorous vetting and training process before they are allowed into the now vast network of riders across the city. They are equipped with skills and expertise for riders and taken through the paces with training regarding road safety (in partnership with Global Road safety Partnership and Uganda Police). The riders are then uniquely identified with numbers on their helmets and reflector jackets so that passengers can easily identify them. The Riders carry extra helmets for their passengers and they also carry hairnets to ensure that the passengers do not need to worry hygiene issues.
The SafeBoda Innovation has encouraged easier, safer and more organized transportation around the city. As a matter of fact, there are no less than 15,000 trips every day and well over 500 tripsBon the app each day. As of 2016, 2.4 Million passengers had safer rides with 40% and 70% reduction in the likelihood of death and severe injury. The riders are also enjoying a 30% improvement in their revenues especially with the financial inclusion that the SafeBoda innovation has created.
In August 2017, Ricky received the Young Achievers Award for Business presented to him by Reach A Hand Uganda.