Minibus taxis are the bane of many motorists' lives because of their reckless and hazardous driving habits, but every day about 14 million South Africans rely on taxis for transportation. 

A group of young people have used technology in an attempt to transform this unscheduled and load-based commuter service into one of the smartest, easiest and most trusted ways to travel.

Their mobile app, Afta Robot, helps taxi drivers to find waiting commuters and allows passengers to keep track of taxi routes, making taxis a safer and more efficient option.

The name of the app has been taken from the township phrase "after robot", which passengers use to indicate to a taxi driver that they would like to alight after a traffic light – usually the safest spot to do so on a busy road.

Similar services assist commuters seeking transport options to locate drivers, but this app allows for two-way communication and enables both parties to supply information to each other, which ensures the safety of the client and service provider. 

The app was developed by Sowertech, a small company incubated at mLab at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria.  MLab is a non-profit organisation powered through the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Department of Science and Technology, the Innovation Hub, the V&A Waterfront, and the World Bank's infoDev programme.

In 2012, mLab launched as a mobile technology accelerator with the aim of supporting innovative new start-ups and unlocking the mobile apps economy.  Since then, mLab has grown to include programmes that support skills development, and continues to build on its successes as a local tech start-up accelerator supporting the development of new companies like Sowertech.

Afta Robot uses advanced wireless technology combined with cloud support.  The app has a suite of solutions, including smart apps and apps using unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). 

USSD is a global protocol for mobile communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application programme in the network.

Obakeng Matlhoko, founder of Sowertech, says the app has been endorsed by several taxi associations in the country, particularly in Gauteng.

Matlhoko, and many other small tech businesses like his, attended the Geeks on a Plane event organised by the DST and the United States Agency for International Development in Pretoria in March 2017.

Geeks on a Plane is an initiative of 500 Startups, an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator founded in 2010.  The initiative sees a 500 Startups team travelling to international start-up scenes on a mission to connect start-up technology companies with possible funders and opportunities to access cross-border markets.

The Geeks on a Plane made its first trip to Africa at the end of March, with stops in Lagos (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana), Johannesburg and Cape Town.