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February 21, 2019

Blame games as greed delays cashless fare system

THE cashless matatu fare system has taken off on a bumpy start, with stakeholders engaging in blame game over poor implementation.

Matatu owners are pointing an accusing finger at banks for the false start of the system, some service providers of the payment platforms are blaming touts for sabotage while banks are of the view that government should do more consumer education to make it work.

The deadline for implementation of the cashless matatu fare system lapsed on February 2 but majority of commuters and PSVs are yet to use the system.

Matatu Owners Association has accused banks of greed that has caused the system to flop. The use of cashless system was to be implemented from July 2014 but PSV operators requested for more time to comply leading to the deadline extension.

"The regulators including the government's technical team have failed in their duty to put up measures which will ensure compatibility of the cards since that is the major issue between banks and non bank service providers," says chairman of MOA Simon Kimutai.

Kimutai says controversies are being caused by the licensing of both banks and non bank service providers by the government without a proper framework to ensure that both types of system administrators operate smoothly.

However My1963 card chairman Mwakio Ngale has refuted the claims by MOA attributing the continued use of cash for fare payment on sabotage by touts.

"Touts and passengers are the ones who will cause the demise of the cashless fare system, they are our clients and without them embracing the system who else will?" posed Ngale.

He adds that the issue of non compatibility is just technical and that it cannot possibly cause the systems not to work.

My1963 fare card was unveiled in May last year by matatu operators but it was officially launched in November by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The card was developed by Fibre Space Limited in collaboration with MOA and Matatu Welfare Association. It is activated by loading at least Sh50 via the Safaricom Mpesa money transfer service.

Aside from My1963, other cards launched for use under the cashless fare system are Beba Pay, KCB's Pepea card and M-Nauli by Cooperative Bank.

There have been mixed reactions from passengers about use of these cards with some confused as to how the system really works. Some commuters have complained that the cards are not compatible with other Point of Sale systems.

Commuters claim that My1963 can not work at other cards' POS systems unlike the rest which can operate from different points of sale. 

Amid the problems,  commuters feel their concerns have not been well addressed.  Their major concern is that the My1963 card will not serve the purpose as it only works at its own POS systems thus inconveniencing them in other routes.

Commuter Eric Kamau who mainly uses PSVs operating along Jogoo road said that in some routes the touts are asking the passengers not to use the card during certain times especially morning hours.

"But i understand them. I don't see the use of other matatus using the cards and some not, and i think it is much easier just handling cash," says Kamau.

“How can I have transport money in the card but I don't have money to eat? I think other areas can work with this system but not in the transport sector” he  opines.

Ngale on his part said the firm is working on ways to enforce the use of the card which will entail partnering with the government so that it can be effective.

According to Ngale,350 PSVs are currently using My1963 successfully. However he did not list them.

“The system is going to take a while to catch up but we are optimistic that after a few years it will be fully embraced,” he said.

KCB head of E-payment Johnson Ondicho, said the bank was just a service provider and as such would not comment on the issue since its a government initiative.

He however noted that there was low consumer education on the system.

"Testing the boundaries of technology is never easy, there are bound to be pitfalls but the lessons allow us to progress and make it better. We are quickly moving into a cashlite economy. It is therefore not a matter of if but when. KCB pepea card remains timely and a relevant technological solution," the bank said in a separate statement.

Beba Pay, which is managed by Google and Equity bank recently pulled out of the cashless system.

National Bank of Kenya has also entered this business.

"With passengers' slow adoption of the cashless system 2,000 people employed by the My1963 service provider might loose their jobs, the cost will not only affect us as you can see,"  Ngale warns.






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