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How Your Money On Tap&Go Cards Is Eaten

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Phiona K (other name withheld on request) is a business consultant that frequently uses public transport buses to move around Kigali while meeting her clients.

She purchased a Tap&Go card and loads money that can take her through a month.

“I once topped up Rwf7500 onto the card and traveled only once from Kanombe to the city centre and back,” Phiona told Taarifa on Monday, adding, “after one month, I went to board the bus but when I tapped on the bus gadget, it indicated that there was no money of the card. I was embarrassed.”

Phiona has never had any answers to where the balance of Rwf7000 on the card went? Why was it taken and how did all that happen, “nobody ever borrowed my card,” she wonders.

Phiona is not alone in this situation, several other holders of Tap&Go cards have varying experiences on how their money on the cards gets lost in a mysterious manner yet they cannot ask anyone anywhere.

For the past one year, Taarifa has been investigating this sensitive issue and we bring you details of the findings.

According to AC Group, a local technology company specialising in smart transport solutions, it distributes Tap&Go cards; there are two million cards in circulation. Agents across several spots at bus-stops and terminals can be found selling cards to commuters.

For the past five years, the agents have been collecting cash from commuters seeking to top-up their Tap&Go cards. Top-up cash alone is valued in billions of francs per month, but AC Group Company remains tight on revealing figures.

However, Taarifa has noticed that on average every card has a balance of Rwf2,000; meaning that there can be a total of Rwf4billion of unclaimed balance on the two million Tap&Go cards at some point in time.

In one of the rules of operating an escrow account, according to Central Bank regulatory requirements, a company is supposed to file daily reports indicating financial records and recoconcillaitions for purposes of accountability and protecting the public from fraud.

According to commuters interviewed by Taarifa in the past one year, they complain that they top-up for weekly rides but the money lasts only 3-4 days.

It is not known who keeps this money. Who earns interest on this money, and to which bank account it is kept if it’s on an escrow account or the company account.

In case of an escrow account, who has oversight on this money? And one would ask are all deposits and withdrawals accounted for? Are weekly, monthly or annual reports filed with any a government agency?

However, Patrick Buchana, the CEO AC Group, told Taarifa in an exclusive interview on August 1, “Balance on Tap&Go cards doesn’t belong to bus companies. Money is kept in an escrow account and there are rules governing escrow accounts which we follow.”

The Rwf 4 billion continuous float is un-managed, unsupervised, and un-accounted for. We don’t know who is benefiting from the interest, while the Rwandan public is left out in the cold.

Taarifa also observed that several commuters have lost their cards loaded with money. Since the cards are not registered to holders, they forfeit the money. Nobody knows where this money goes since the company has a complex database.

Meanwhile, bus companies say that AC Group company intentionally refused to implement the requirements in the agreement with which they operate this deal.

As per the Memorandum of Understanding with the three bus operators in Kigali, AC Group was supposed to install Passenger Counters and CCTV cameras in each bus in Kigali three years ago. This would allow the bus operators to cross-check the number of passengers boarding each bus and tally it with the Tap&Go bus ticketing.

In the agreement also, AC Group would install digital head counters for purposes of transparency in numerical reconciliations at a time of disbursing revenues to bus companies.

None of all that has been done. Taarifa has obtained documents indicating that AC Group, bus companies, and Rwanda Regulatory Authority (RURA) have been holding meetings for years, but matters not resolved.

In some of the paper exchanges, bus companies threatened AC Group with severe actions including withdrawing some revenue sharing rights and canceling some of the contractual benefits.

According to a service contract signed on March 15, 2016, between AC Group Ltd and Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives (RFTC), one of the main operative provisions among the responsibilities of the supplier indicates, “the supplier will provide cameras and sensors mounted on the bus within two months and four months of the contract date respectively.”

However, these systems were never installed by AC Group and there is no explanation. Who benefits if the bus operators have no idea of the number of passengers that board each bus? Has this been done intentionally to manipulate the number of tickets shown by AC Group?

When asked about the demise of bus companies, a former manager of one of the buses who preferred to remain anonymous, he said, “you can’t do nothing, that company is owned by very powerful people with big connections in the system.”

Kigali Bus Commuters Lose Rwf1B Annually Over Internet Not Provided

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Business

Most Expensive Home in America To Be Auctioned

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The One mansion of the largest private homes ever built, with a colossal 105,00sq ft of living space will go to the highest bidder tonight during a public auction.

Once valued at $500 million, The One mansion in Bel-Air is being sold for $295 million and will be on the open market until it is auctioned off by Concierge Auctions, an online auction marketplace, from February 28 to March 3.

The home will be sold without reserve, meaning it will sell to the highest bidder. Even if it sells close to the price it’s listed at, it will surely break records.

Currently, billionaire and hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin’s $238 million New York penthouse in 2019 holds the record as the most expensive U.S. home ever sold.

Developed by Nile Niami, the massive estate took more than 10 years to build and created massive debt for Niami. His development company, Crestlloyd, filed for bankruptcy last year, forcing the home to careen towards auction as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

However, the home still has about 12 more months of work. The buyer will have to put down nearly $340,000 as a deposit.

The Los Angeles home is one of the largest ever built, and is twice the size of the White House. It spans 105,000 square feet and the property sprawls over 3.8 acres.

Outdoor features include a moat of water on three sides of the home, five pools, a 10,000-square-foot deck and a 400-foot outdoor running track.

The home is more like a personal, private resort than a single-family home. There are a whopping 21 bedrooms, 42 full bathrooms and seven half bathrooms.

Despite its grandiose nature, there is a pared-down, neutral color palette throughout and calming water features.

Within the home, there are custom-curated artworks from artists Mike Fields, Stephen Wilson and glass artist Simoe Cenedese, to name a few. Soaring, 26-foot ceilings make the home feel even larger than it is (if that’s possible), and rooms are oversized and expansive.

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Business

Rwanda-Uganda Full Trading Resumes

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Full trading between Rwanda and Uganda is scheduled to resume on Monday January 31st following Kigali announcement that it had opened locks on its borders shut in March 2019.

“Rwanda has taken note that there is a process to solve issues raised by Rwanda, as well as commitments made by the government of Uganda to address remaining obstacles,” Kigali said in the statement.

Since the border closure Rwanda and Uganda recorded a significant reduction in trade flows and was further worsened by the covid-19 pandemic that struck a year after Rwanda had slammed its doors to the northern neighbour.

Before the border was closed in 2019, Uganda export revenues fetched from trading with Rwanda were valued over U$600million. During 2020 Uganda Exports to Rwanda was US$2.31 Million, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

President Paul Kagame said in his new year address that Rwanda prospered in the economic front.

“We are beginning the year 2020 after a successful 2019.Our country remained safe as a result of our efforts”.

The Africa Development Bank in its 2019 outlook on Rwanda, projected robust growth prospects even as the standoff with Uganda heightened.

For example, Rwanda and Tanzania signed the standard gauge railway (SGR) deal dubbed, sub-Saharan Africa’s first 570 Km bullet line with Tanzania worth US$2.5 billion.

Also Rwanda by December 2019 signed a U$1.3 billion deal on Bugesera Airport with Qatar.

One of the biggest blows that Uganda suffered in its standoff with Rwanda was the emergence of Tanzania as Rwanda’s new major trading partner.

Uganda exports to Rwanda include; mineral fuels, oils, distillation products ,plastics ,textiles ,cereals , electronics, vehicles, machinery, fish, edible fruits, soaps, cement, lubricants, waxes, candles and an assortment of manufactured articles.

With the border slated for opening on Monday, the gesture is expected to boost  the movement of goods, transport, persons and services and under strict observation of restrictions against covid-19 pandemic.

How Museveni Lost to Kagame in Race For Regional Dominance

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Business

Akabanga Tycoon Diversifies to Petroleum

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Sina Gerard famed for producing the hot oiled pepper ‘akabanga’ has diversified into petroleum products, Taarifa Business desk reports.

Under a new company registered as Sina Gerard Petroleum Ltd, the tycoon’s decision indicates that he is reading from a good business book on diversification strategy.

Diversification is a business development strategy in which a company develops new products and services, or enters new markets, beyond its existing ones.  Companies diversify to achieve greater profitability.

Diversification will never be an easy game, and managers must study their cards carefully. It takes smart players to know when it’s best to raise their bets and when it’s best to fold.

Havard Business review research suggests that if managers consider the following six questions, they can push their thinking still further to reduce the gamble of diversification. Answering the questions will not lead to an easy go-no-go decision, but the exercise can help managers assess the likelihood of success.

The issues the questions raise, and the discussion they provoke, are meant to be coupled with the detailed financial analysis typical of the diversification decision-making process.

Together, these tools can turn a complex and often pressured decision into a more structured and well-reasoned one.

Thus, when managers consider whether or not to diversify, they should ask themselves the following questions:

What can our company do better than any of its competitors in its current market?

Before diversifying, managers must think not about what their company does but about what it does better than its competitors.

What strategic assets do we need in order to succeed in the new market?

To diversify, a company must have all the necessary strategic assets, not just some of them.

Can we catch up to or leapfrog competitors at their own game?

Will diversification break up strategic assets that need to be kept together?

Managers need to ask whether their strategic assets are transportable to the industry they have targeted.

Will we be simply a player in the new market or will we emerge a winner?

What can our company learn by diversifying, and are we sufficiently organized to learn it?

Like good chess players, forward-thinking managers will think two or three moves ahead.

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