It had been raining hail that Tuesday afternoon, after work my head was on how I’d get home without before the Nairobi weather decides otherwise. If you have been around the Nairobi CBD when it is pouring you know how crazy it gets, people seem to stop thinking for a moment and turn on auto pilot which in turn result in a traffic mess. I get to town at 5.30pm and head straight to where our buses are. There is some new bus which is filling up quickly because of the loud music, I board it even though the available seats are the back seats which I really hate because by the time the journey is through the trauma you undergo being thrown up down and sideways is too much.
There is this guy wearing a beba pay branded shirt and he starts telling us how he is giving away the cards for free; that is quite the opener if you know ‘Kenyans Peculiar Habits’ freebies is sure going to get you some attention mine included, never mind if the freebie is useful or not as long as it is free we will take it. Okay back to what I was saying, I decide I’ll have myself a beba card, after all in June there will be a cashless transaction system in our transport system. I could as well take on this ‘deal’.
I was excited with the prospect of not carrying cash around; it has an upper limit of five thousand Kenyan shillings only. That is exactly what I use in a month moving from the house to the office in a typical month (20 weekdays) excluding weekends. Every transaction sends you a text confirming the cost which can also act as receipt, another thumbs up. With this I decide to load it up with five hundred bob to test the card. I have to login to my gmail account while activating the card, this I am told tracks all the routes (using google maps) the card was used, I am a bit wary since I feel like big brother can access that data and easily spy on me which is both good and bad, but I won’t go into details about that now.
Having some money loaded, I was excited to use it, Wednesday morning I can’t find a bus accepting beba pay and it’s getting late, same thing happens in the evening, well not exactly there was another bus charging less (I have already told you about Kenyans and bargains). On Thursday the previous day’s scenario repeats itself. Now I feel like I have money tied up which I cannot get back through any other way except through spending! That is not a very good feeling ey?
I believe the government wants to introduce the cashless system in order to have more accurate data for tax purposes. Here is how the card works:
- I load it with money using M-Pesa or equity agent;
- Board a “Beba Pay accepted” branded bus;
- The conductor uses a specialized phone with NFC technology to read the card to charge my account;
- The money is transferred from my account to the bus company’s account [it need not be an Equity account, they will debit the account you register with]; and
- I receive a text message confirming the transaction.
Brilliant! Ey? It sure is, but there are some misgivings:
- What is the motivation towards driving the whole industry towards a cashless system? Why are there not public education forums to educate people and allow people to embrace the system?
- Why is Equity bank the only provider supporting the cashless system? Is it a case of an early adopter/innovator or is there more than meets the eye?
→ First thing that comes to mind when I think of the cashless system is; every month I use five thousand shillings just going to and from the office from the house.
→ Assuming there are 10,000 people in my neighborhood who like myself use the same amount going to and from work in a month, and they have the Beba Card, this will translate to Equity holding a cumulative 50,000,000 shillings sweat free.
→ Now if you already load your money to this card you cannot get it back, you have to use it unlike if there was an option like “Lipa na M-Pesa” where you have your money in M-Pesa and you can use it for other needs which is more convenient and makes more sense. Of course for people who do not have M-pesa this may pose a challenge either because of not having a phone or using a different mobile subscriber.
What are your thoughts on the Beba card and the cashless transport system that the government seeks to introduce?