When the iconic Nairobi Expressway opened to the public in May this year, it ushered a new dawn for motorists in the city, providing the much-needed convenience to beat the dreadful Mombasa road traffic.
However, being the first toll road in the country, it means that using the road comes with a cost implication, one that the privileged Kenyans like to call a “convenience fee”. And convenience you get indeed on the Nairobi expressway, which has reduced the usual average 2-hour commute from Westlands, on normal traffic, to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to just 15 minutes!
While motorists who prefer the traffic-free convenience that comes with using the expressway don’t mind paying the toll fee, the mode of payment has been nothing close to convenience as you can only pay in cash if you do not have an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) installed in your car, which has been a major inconvenience for Kenyans who are used to ‘lipa na Mpesa’ (mobile money payment)
The ETC is the most convenient, cashless option at the moment but for Nairobians who hardly use the expressway like myself, installing it has not been a priority until yesterday when I learned my lesson the hard way!
Have you ever wondered what happens to motorists who end up on the Nairobi expressway and have no cash and no ETC? Well, read on for a first-hand experience;
Thanks to the heavy downpour in Nairobi on Monday evening and lack of familiarity with the expanded Waiyaki way, I missed a turn after the James Gichuru junction and ended up on the expressway. By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late to pull a Kenyan driver stunt; reverse, and exit while crossing fingers that there’s no traffic cop nearby, otherwise prepare to part with the usual “kitu kidogo”.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if the nearest exit on the Nairobi expressway was near the road I needed to join as I have never used the expressway from Waiyaki way and much worse; I didn’t have cash on me so I had no idea how on earth I was going to pay the toll charges but I had no choice but to drive on regardless. I communicated my mistake and my dilemma to the attendants and they assured me the team at the exit would “sort me out” so I relaxed but shock on me when I got to the exit!
“Unfortunately, our policy doesn’t allow us to take Mpesa so I can’t help you” the lady at the exit booth said to me.
I told her I knew that bit and asked if I could send her the money then she uses her cash to pay for me but she declined.
“What do I do now”? I asked her as a queue was building and the motorists behind me were getting impatient already.
“Normally when drivers don’t have cash they go borrow from the other drivers,” she said, totally unbothered, I guess she had seen this scenario play out enough times.
“Wait what! Are you serious!” i asked, shocked. I found that odd and laughable at the same time but I realized she was serious and I had to step out of the car and go beg for Ksh 120.
Luckily the motorist right behind me was kind enough to assist and declined my offer to send him the cash on Mpesa.
I shared my experience on social media and I was surprised when people shared that “borrowing money on the expressway” is the drill when you end up there without cash!
Just when you thought you have had enough of peculiar Kenyan habits; new ones crop up by day.
Welcome to ‘Kanairo’.