Is the kombi business still profitable in Zimbabwe?

Transport business in Zimbabwe, what is happening? If you analyse the industry you will note some interesting facts.

Here is a brief synopsis

  • The NRZ has curtailed its commuter train operations due to lack of capital to replace rails, locomotives and the rolling stock. This has created a huge gap in meeting the commuting needs of Zimbabwean travellers.
  • According Ministry of Transport, Zimbabwe has an annual deficit of 500 buses. Bus assembly companies such as Deven, Sub Sahara Buses and AVM Africa are failing to meet the demand for new buses. This is due to lack of long term capital which is needed for retooling and financing packages for clients such as leasehire or hire purchase.
  • Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), the government owned bus operator, is no longer UNITED, it has broken apart due lack of strategy and mismanagement. ZUPCO in its heydays provided a super-efficient urban commuter service and now the company is as good as dead. It has more buses in the garage than on the road. Other formerly big bus companies such as Tenda Bus Services, Munenzva, Chawasarira and Tombs also are failing to recover after hyper inflation as there is no capital to increase their bus stock.
  • Regulation in the sector has loosened as authorities have allowed small time players to come in to fill the gap. Dr Simba Makoni, when he was the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, once allowed private cars to ferry commuters as there was a transport crisis. Operator’s licences for operating a commuter omnibus are now easier to get and these have even been granted for long distance journey or inter-city travels.

Now coming back to the question of whether kombi business is still profitable.

Over the past 10 years the number of commuter omnibus has been increasing steadily and in the 3 years it has increased sharply. Why? Because there has been an increase in commuting and travelling as a result of improved disposable income. When hyper inflation became extreme in 2008 people used to walk unimaginable distances to get to business centres or towns but now they can afford to catch a kombi.

There is a general increase in urbanisation and this has increased the demand for transport services.

As ZUPCO is limping or even grounded, NRZ is also struggling and other formerly big bus companies are struggling, kombi business is an excellent opportunity for any entrepreneur or would-be entrepreneur.

Generally travellers do not prefer kombis when travelling long distances because they are accident prone but have no option as there is no good alternative most of the time.

One phenomenon that has appeared is that even with increase in kombis the demand is still high that informal players are coming on the urban and long distance with private cars such as Toyota Raum, Vitz, Ipsum and Honda Oddssey. So this is an indicator that there is a huge gap in the transport sector. Well, we could be wrong, when actually it is the poor regulation and policing which could stop private cars commuting.

The problem current players are facing is that they are not meeting the requirements of being a transport operator and this result in heavy fines from police (both lawful fines and bribes). If you are serious player it is critical that you need to meet all the requirements for running a transport business such having operator’s licence, passenger insurance and a road fit vehicle.

Customer service is also an important factor as kombis are known for mistreating passengers. You can differentiate service by offerring a better customer service.

So in conclusion kombis are one business idea in Zimbabwe worthy pursuing.


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15 Responses to “Is the kombi business still profitable in Zimbabwe?”

  1. Mandhla Pedze

    Jan 08. 2013

    Thank you for your article, I am a new player in the Industry Speacilising in City to City Commuter Transport using the Sprinter Mercedes Benz Buses which are more comfortable and spacious.

    I have so many ideas for this business, in terms of customer service.

    Watch out for NET TO NET TRANSPORT, soon to be on Zimbabwe’s highways.

    Regards

    Reply to this comment
  2. Saviour

    Apr 08. 2013

    Thank you for your article. I am believing God to venture into this area very soon. I am convinced too that customer service is the key. Tee “n” Vee Transport is coming soon….!

    Reply to this comment
  3. petso

    Apr 11. 2013

    thanks buddy.i concurr with u.its a goodstep stone to the middle class

    Reply to this comment
  4. Francis

    Apr 13. 2013

    I would like to thank everyone contributing on this forum.I want to get into commuter transport business and was advised to buy Mercedes Sprinters from UK.I checked on the website and found out that Panel Vans have got reasonable prices than those with seats.My question is do we have any good companies in Harare to convert these Vans into Buses and on average how much can i expect for this and also what is the maximum comfortable seats a LWB Sprinter can have?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Frank

    May 06. 2013

    Is putting a tracking device to monitor mileage a good idea?

    Reply to this comment
  6. siphesihle langa

    May 08. 2013

    hi every one!
    its always a pleasure to hear from such a business minded bunch of entrepreneurs. i just wish to tell you all about the soon to come laser tech in in the taxi industry. good luck everyone with your businesses

    Reply to this comment
  7. Jena

    May 27. 2013

    Have not been so lucky with the business. Have an Iveco 21 seater daily minibus which used to ply long route but we were totally disappointed with the revenues, for us I guess its not our trade. As Kudzi highlighted you need to carefully engage an experienced driver and manage everything. Good luck!

    Reply to this comment
  8. dee

    Nov 20. 2013

    the business has a huge potential but the major problem is 1) police are a problem and do not want vehicles with papers , if u have papers you are penalized once you are caught on the wrong side of the law.
    2)the requirements are just too tough you can class 2 d/l with 5 yrs exp ,retest, defensive, medical , op license, fitness, route authority, bin,carry 15 pass strictly. failure to have any one of these is a punishable offense carrying a fine of not less than 10usd.

    3)private operators ranging from vitz, march, granvia, ipsum yu name it all these offer serious competition which is affecting profitability of the kombi business in zimbabwe.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Mandhla

    Jan 23. 2014

    Finally got my bus on the road, but got a rude awakening. Got all the papers as required e.g Operator’s License, Fitness and Route Authority. My major challenge is the driver, conductor and the main culprit the police.
    My best advise to new operators is you that need to take time and be on the road with your bus so that you get used to the way they operate and the revenue that is expected. On this point don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty if you expect good results.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Charles

    Feb 10. 2014

    Coming across this blog was interesting for as i am one of the new commers in Harare.Yesh have worked in the taxi industry before and its tough to run if you dont have trustworthy drivers or conductors and what they bring.Have been buikting my taxi and it almost done but please can someone help me with information of the following,what papers are required for a taxi to be said it can now operaTE? In all the papers required how much will it cost and what procedure must i take as i bought a new 4y engine and then did put it on a body on wheels that i bought.Gnetlemen sharing ideas in this bussines is ideal.Thank you in advance and i love this site.Blue Line Tours coming soon -Harare Mrewa Mtawatawa.

    Reply to this comment

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