Lack of inter-operability will kill the Cashless Matatu fare system

The chairman of Matatu Owners Association shows the Nairobi Senetor Miko sonko how the NFC card works
A Matatu in Nairobi's City Center
A Matatu in Nairobi’s City Center

The ‘no cash for fare rule’ takes effect on Tuesday July 1st. Any matatu( public transport vehicles) caught receiving cash from commuters will be liable to a fine of Ksh. 100,000 or a prison term not exceeding one year for non-compliance.

There are currently 3 cashless payment options in form of NFC electronic cards that every commuter will be required to use. Beba Pay from Equity and Google Abiria Card from Kenya Bus Service and KCB bank and Ji-Nice card from My1963

Most Matatus are yet to  comply despite the looming deadline. Those that have are using either of the three cards. The biggest challenge come Tuesday will be that commuters will be required to own, load cash and carry all 3 cards.

So is this going to help commuters or will make their lives harder maintaining a minimum balance on each card.

The main reason behind the cashless payment move by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) was to bring much needed discipline that had been dire in the Kenyan commuter transport sector. Cases of gross indiscipline by the matatu crew such as over charging fares, lack of customer service, over speeding and flaunting all other traffic rules are the main reason the NTSA passed a bill requiring all Matatus to join associations and that all crew be fully employed by the Saccos.

The chairman of Matatu Owners Association shows the Nairobi Senetor Miko sonko how the NFC card works
The chairman of Matatu Owners Association shows the Nairobi Senetor Miko sonko how the NFC card works

However, the cashless payment solutions seems like it was not fully thought out and might just through commuters into chaos come Tuesday.

Knowing that Matatu associations are not united, NTSA should have know that every SACCO would come up with their own form of payment.
Therefore what NTSA should have done was to issue a request for tender to any company with the capacity to provide this service, therefore, Beba Pay, Ji-Nice and Abiria card would have all bid for the tender with the most competent company winning the tender.

This would have meant that NTSA would not be dealing with the nightmare that they will have to deal with from frustrated customers who will be forced to buy and load all manner of cards.

That will be the failure of a ground breaking project that would have seen Kenyans regain their dignity while using public transportation.
The Matatu industry needs a fully thought out solution that will not give the operators an excuse to continue exploiting commuters.

(images courtesy of afroautos.com and businessdailyafrica.com respectively)

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