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Interview With Our Co-founder and CTO
  • 12 Nov 2022

Interview With Our Co-founder and CTO

In this exclusive interview conducted by Shalom Anosike, Joseph Lumbahe, Co-founder and CTO of Bus54 talks about his goal to create an aviation-styled intercity road transportation booking and travel experience for Africans

What is Bus54?

Joseph: Bus54 is a mobility technology company building a digital infrastructure that is providing a platform to aggregate intercity bus transportation across Africa and that way allowing passengers search, compare, book, and manage their journeys

And we also provide offline intercity bus transporters with an interface that includes payment integration so that they can manage their end-to-end operations. That’s pretty much what it is.

What are your goals for Bus54?

Joseph: Interesting question, my goals for Bus54 is to examine the short and long-term technological requirements and ensuring that these requirements, through the
tech innovation, accelerates the growth of Bus54. 

Another goal is to maximise the
efficiency of production efforts by co-ordinating the various teams and operations involved in the process and ensure there is no overlap because at the end of the day, I am the face of the company’s technical vision, so I need to ensure that digital innovation responds to all sorts of markets that are spread across the 54 countries in Africa.

What challenges have you faced as a tech founder building

Joseph: One of the challenges in the early days was that a number of transport operators that we initially wanted to onboard have online presence (existing website), but their websites do not follow best-practice technical and development standard which made integration with our platform difficult. 

We made a decision to develop a white label solution that has full integration capability with our platform and eventually transfer their domain to our white label website.

How do you deal with stress and big challenges?

Joseph: I typically do not worry about things that I can’t control. I usually prepare myself for events that I know may be stressful. I try to think of change as a positive challenge and not as a threat and that basically prevents me from stressing about elements that are constantly changing. 

The secret sauce is that I often collaborate and ask for a hand when I need one especially from my co-founder Ezra. We do work together on things that might be stressful and having some assistance always makes things easier. We all know that consistency requires discipline and to be disciplined, you need to be determined. 

I am determined when I need to get
something done, stressful or not. My goal is not to focus on the stress but to focus on the completion of what I’m doing and keeping the same amount of energy throughout
the journey isn’t easy but not impossible.

You talked about reaching out to your co-founder, Ezra
when you have big challenges, so you work through it
together. Since Ezra does not have an IT background, how
does he help out?

Joseph: When it’s a technical task, there is a whole developer community/network that I have that comes handy. Also, I do a lot of research and eventually come up
with a solution.

What do you do with your free time? How do you unwind?

Joseph: When it comes to free time, it’s not something I really have because I’m so busy with a lot of things but, when I want to, I take a break from my busy professional life. I live in Cape Town and we have a nice coast here. What I like to do
is take a drive on a nice sunny day to get some fresh air. I also play tennis but usually unwinding for me is going out for a nice drive on a sunny day.

If you had to come up with three words to describe the
culture you’re creating, what would they be?

Joseph: Three words not four? Lol. The three words would be transparency, supportive and progressive.

What are some of the tech products you love and why?

Joseph: Within Bus54, one of the products that I love is the data-free aspect of the platform, and I love the data-free aspect of the mobile app platform which we are currently
testing and due for release soon, because it tackles one of the main issues we have in Africa, which is access to internet data. 

Integrating a data-free element on our mobile app means that our platform will still remain usable by anyone regardless of their accessibility to internet. As we know, internet in Africa can be very expensive. 

Currently, one of the AI products I have great interest for is a humanoid robot called Ameca; that has been developed by a UK based company called Engineered Art. It is the world most advanced human-shaped robot. Ameca has a wide range of human-like facial expression. To me personally, it is the most advanced human-shaped or humanoid robots out there.

Why do you like Ameca?

Joseph: I like it because my initial background is artificial intelligence (AI) which I have a passion for. I do work on a lot of AI projects as well. The specific project around Ameca is at the forefront of human robotics technology. The research that
has been going on around Ameca has been phenomenal and you eventually see how AI can grow and expand very quickly over the years. That’s pretty much why it really grabs my attention.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Joseph: With Bus54, what we are trying to solve is the fragmentation of intercity transportation within African countries. We do have a lot of offline transporters that
cover a large number of routes but due to a lack of online visibility to the users, it makes the transportation network in Africa very complex, difficult, and eventually not
accessible to everyone. At Bus54, we do solve that problem on the passenger’s side when it comes to visibility. 

On the transport operator side, within the transportation industry in Africa, a lot of transport operators have great difficulty in managing their end-to-end operations with a lack of transparency around revenue collection. So, we are trying to basically combine that whole end-to-end operation, from seat selection, to payment, to the confirmation of passengers to the time at which the bus leaves and all of that. 

We are bundling all that end-to-end operation into one single platform, because it’s something that has been impossible to manage across Africa when it comes to the transportation industry with offline bus operators who form a huge percentage of available buses.

What about some ‘online’ operators that do not have the
tools to manage their ticket booking online?

Joseph: When it comes to operators that do have a website, a few are able to provide complete online booking service. However, not all of them provide passengers with an end-to-end booking and travel experience. There is the added
issue that some operators’ websites are not user friendly on a browser. 

The bigger issue is around aggregating the schedules, routes, and pricing of operators to provide users with the option to search, compare and book their journeys. 

There’s still a lot of manual work that is being done on the transporter admin side to be able to aggregate all these data from how many people booked and how much revenue was made for that day to all the queries that they are having; so, the end-to-end operation is still lacking in spite of them having an online presence. 

How is Bus54 unique?

Joseph: What makes Bus54 unique is its bundled features in one place. As I mentioned, Bus54 is not only building a digital infrastructure, but it’s also building a platform that basically reinforces the relationship between the passenger and the

We are building a data aggregator; a) for the customer because they can see multiple transport operators in one platform, and b) for operators because they have a single view of their end-to-end operations. It actually maximises their productivity and increases their operational efficiency.

At the moment, how do you measure success, what are
your metrics?

Joseph: My co-founder would agree with me, to measure success, you need to set goals. But not all goals are created equal. I take time to outline specifics, measurables, relevant and timebound goals. When we get to check the box of all
these elements it provides me with the foundation that I need to measure effectiveness of the progress of the project. 

For example, we had timebound goals such as the release of version 2 of our platform and the timebound goal was also linked to our achievable checkbox (and that was indeed achievable within that specified timebound hence all the boxes were checked). 

We also had specifics within the release of version 2 which were also checked. All those elements were
checked, and for me accomplishment within the timebound goals is the definition of

Where do you see Bus54 in a year from now?

Joseph: Currently, Bus54 has kicked off in Nigeria as the first country, but in a year from now, Bus54 will get closer to its goal, which is found within its name. The 54 in the name, represents all the countries in Africa. So, in a year, we would have
covered multiple other countries within Africa. 

Nigeria has been a great starting point but in a year’s time Bus54 will definitely have presence in more than 2 to 3 other countries in Africa. This is actually an ongoing process taking place in the background.

What gets you excited about the future of Bus54?

Joseph: What gets me excited about Bus54’s future is the fact that we’re solving a problem that is at the heart of Africa’s sustainable future. Transportation is a complex
problem in Africa, but when addressed, it will significantly improve connectivity between families, communities, and businesses, thereby opening a whole new world of possibilities in terms of intra-African trade. 

The fact that we are tackling a problem that has been there for many years but not been addressed in a sustainable way makes Bus54 using innovation and technology to address the problem, exciting.

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