The frustrating business of entrepreneurs’ bus trips
Sometimes, the hassle at customs is not the most frustrating part of a businessperson’s bus trip.
Standing at the Uganda-Rwanda border, businesswoman Mashengesho stares in the distance despondently. The internet was down, so it took longer than usual to get his goods through customs. Meanwhile, the Onatracom bus he boarded in Kampala has long gone.
“I am a regular customer, I travel every weekend to Kampala for business, but what has happened to me today is really bad. My business is now going to be late for customers,” she complains.
Mukasine, a colleague, tries to console her. “Normally, when the bus from Kampala leaves you at the border, you can always negotiate with the next one if you can show your ticket and they have free seats,” Mukasine explains.
She remarks that what has happened to Mashengesho is not unusual. “Last month it also happened to me,” Mukasine says. “Many of us love the Onatraco service because it’s cheaper compared to other companies and the drivers are not reckless. What is more, in case there is a problem like Mashengesho’s, you can normally be assured to get back home.”
She adds, though, that in practice it is not always that easy, and much depends on the goodwill of the boys travelling on the bus to help people with their luggage. Two of them especially, known as Kana and Muyaneza, have a reputation among businesspeople of being particularly obnoxious.
“When you happen to come across these two fellows, you’re in trouble – they will tell you to pay again, and if you refuse they will tell you to find other transport to Kigali, even if you show them your ticket,” Mukasine explains.
However Esdras Nkundukiza, the General Manager of Onatracom, is quick to point out that this is against the company’s policies, and that these boys are not employees.
“I would like to apologise for such cases, several people have called me to inform me about such mischief. Yet we don’t employ these boys, it’s mostly the drivers who take them on board to help in loading and offloading goods of our customers. But if they misbehave, they should not be hired again,” Nkundukiza explains.
He further points out that the boys are allowed to ask for a fee for helping passengers with their luggage, especially at border posts, but that they can in now way charge them again for the ride. “That would be theft, and I invite people who become victim of such practices to call me or any other manager in our head offices. Moreover, the drivers who employ the boys should help customers in such cases,” “Nkundukiza says.
On the other hand, however, Nkundukiza explains that he sympathises with non-business travellers who get weary of the long wait at the border. For those he has good news: there will soon be dedicated busses on which no businesspeople are allowed.
“When you look at the buses plying the Kampala route, they are always full of businesspeople transporting goods,” the general manager says. “However, we are planning to bring in new luxurious buses for people who go for tourism or other non-business trips, so they will be moving comfortably and not be inconvenienced by businesspeople.”