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Three years ago, Blen Hailu, after a decade of working in the banking industry, transitioned to a new chapter in life by starting a family. Blen, who holds a Master’s Degree in Developmental Economics, was a mother of two at the time and was facing challenges in transporting her kids to and from school.

“The existing transportation service for students lacks quality and is unreliable, and unsafe. The drivers and attendants are not adequately trained and responsible for the well-being of the children,” states Blen.

According to Blen, parents face numerous issues, such as being unable to monitor their children’s trips. Some schools do have their own transportation service for kids. But parents have no choice in selecting the car or driver, as the service was assigned through the school, limiting their control over the transportation arrangements. Moreover, there was no guarantee of service continuity if the assigned car or driver encountered issues.

Akofada (DFS Ethiopia)

Blen realized that this was not just her problem but a common concern within her circle. Failing to find a company addressing this issue, she decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2021, along with two co-founders, she established Kabba Transport, envisioning it as the first student carpool transportation system in Ethiopia.

Kabba Kids aims to transform student transport services in Ethiopia through a platform-backed approach. After the app launched in September 2022, Kabba began full-scale operations.

“Up to now, we have served over 300 kids on a monthly basis from 10 schools around the Ayat and CMC areas in Addis Ababa,” stated Blen, who recently had her third child.

Parents register on the app, providing details about their residence, school name and location, and student information. The app calculates a monthly service price based on the route, allowing parents to agree and enlist if they find the terms acceptable.

“We provide parents with the choice to select the car type and decide whether their child travels alone or with other kids. They can also choose between an automobile or minibus,” explained the 34-year-old Blen.

For parents opting for shared rides, Kabba aggregates demands from nearby parents, grouping students attending the same school into one car. Once the list was complete, parents were notified to pre-pay for the service, initiating the transportation.

“We have clean, well-vetted, and kid-friendly vehicles. We also train and follow up with the drivers,” added Blen.

Kabba collaborates with schools, streamlining the process and obtaining dedicated parking areas for its drivers.

The same cars and drivers pick up and drop off students, with their identities shared with both parents and schools. In cases of unavailability, Kabba substitutes cars and informs parents of the new car/driver assignment. Furthermore, Kabba dispatches monitors during school pick-up times to facilitate the process.

Kabba Kids is currently available for Android and also has a driver app. The end-to-end, technology-based transportation solution allows parents to track their journey through the app.

Kabba charges a subscription fee starting at 2500 birr for minibus carpooling and 3600 birr for automobiles per child, with rates based on distance. The startup takes a 15% commission for the service it provides. 

According to Blen, the monthly fees for student transportation services vary significantly from school to school and depend on the distance. However, she notes that the average price in the capital ranges between 1500 to 2000 birr.

Service Expansion: On-Demand Services & Employee Ridesharing 

Kabba is launching a new version of its app in February 2024, enabling on-demand pick-up and drop-off transport services for kids.

Parents will be able to register on the app and provide details. If they are unable to transport their kids for a day, they can book a one-time pick-up or drop-off service. Kabba communicates the assigned driver to the parents, providing safety and a guarantee for the parents, as stated by Blen.

The bootstrapped startup is also venturing into employee ride-sharing services after receiving inquiries from companies.

“Similar to the kids’ operation, we provide ride-sharing services for employees working at the same company, picking them up and dropping them off from work,” shared Blen. Kabba is already working with Warit Furniture and Huawei on this service and aims to onboard more organizations.

Further boosting its service expansion and overall growth, Kabba has recently joined the Mesirat Entrepreneurship Program, a partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and Gebeya Inc. The program, launched in March 2023, aims to empower 100 entrepreneurs in Ethiopia by providing them with their own multi-sided gig marketplaces.

With the support of Mesirat, Kabba aims to create 10,000 jobs and establish itself as a premier ride-sharing platform in Ethiopia.

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