Beba Pay

14 Feb

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’.

Initial perceptions

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.

Subsequent observations

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:

  1. I load it with money using M-Pesa or equity agent;
  2. Board a “Beba Pay accepted” branded bus;
  3. The conductor uses a specialized phone with NFC technology to read the card to charge my account;
  4. 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
  5. 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?


Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Just Random, Opinion


Tags: , , , ,

12 responses to “Beba Pay

  1. KuiwaNjuguna

    February 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Does the card have any identification info that would limit people from sharing it?

    • mackel9

      February 17, 2014 at 10:23 am

      It does not, you can give it to your child bro, you will got notification via sms when they do use it. If it gets lost you have to notify the customer care guys and it may take up up to 48 hours for them to block the card…

      • KuiwaNjuguna

        February 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

        Hmm it might be a good idea if implemented well

      • mackel9

        February 18, 2014 at 10:49 am

        Let me wait and see as I wonder how to use up the little cash I loaded onto mine! Impulse buying is baaad!

  2. Savvy Kenya (@savvykenya)

    February 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I had a Beba card, the original Beba. It could only be used in Citi Hoppas and they stopped accepting it shortly after. It’s now a dead card, I can’t use it in the current buses accepting Beba Pay.

    Secondly, the cards are limited to specific matatu/buses so when in other routes I still have to resort to cash.

    Thirdly, even in the available bus routes, you can see not many buses/matatus are taking it.

    So I’m letting this one pass by me as I stare at my useless green Beba card in my wallet. Luckily it only had about 5 bob left. I should throw it in the bin.

    • mackel9

      February 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      That is exactly the same feeling am having right now, when I get to use most of the funds in mine I will just leave it in the house till something more universally accepted comes up.
      They should put more thought to it as they try and market it too. I think the touts are also resisting it since if implemented it means they can’t make some extra cash from the “squadi” they take (every transaction going directly to the bus company/owner)

      • Adam

        February 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        Hi Mackel9. Thanks for giving BebaPay a chance. I run marketing for BebaPay and would love to provide a bit more about some of your open questions if you would like to reach out to me via email at

  3. woolie

    March 7, 2014 at 2:19 am

    What a great post, Mackel9, Introducing a new product that is just coming into the market.
    Like all new systems it will have teething problems and the take up may be a bit slow on the outset as people ‘wait and see.’ I think that introduction of cashless systems right across the economy is long overdue.

    In my humble opinion the faster we can move away from cash transactions the better. This is the 21st century and there are far safer and more efficient ways of carrying out transactions than good old dirty cash. It will never be eradicated completely of course but I imagine bus drivers and conductors would feel slightly safer not having to carry large amounts of cash with them especially at night and on some of the dodgier routes.

    Mr Adam of BebaPay you have heard the concerns. This is your opportunity to tell us why we should all embrace this new system sir. Thanks.

  4. Humphrey

    April 16, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    are there any reasons why some conductors dont want to be given the cards for beba pay…..and if so why is the product in the market for that matter could it be con game……..check to KBM 058M bus from githurai and tell us if we can trust the cards

    • mackel9

      April 17, 2014 at 10:13 am

      Hey Humphrey? I understand your frustration, I gave up using my card, but I still have some optimism when the government introduces the cashless system in June I will get to use my money tied up in the card. I wish it would be earning some form of interest all this time I haven’t been using it (Time Value for Money; a shilling today is worth more tomorrow)

  5. Humphrey

    April 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    perhaps we should or you should employ conductors who will embrace this mode of payment not the arrogant githurai guys….

  6. njeri

    June 30, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    i feel so too..this is kenyan tycoons making money..this isnt an innovation…its there in other economies..just some tycoons who sat and agreed..safcom,equity..why would the govt embrace this yet other banks arent involved..i feel tied to equity no hard feeling.this should be a competitive market.its like kra saying paye can only be paid via mpesa….while many competitors are there in the market…was there bidding….for it….


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