When Google launched their Beba payment card in Kenya’s public transport system last year, commuters in the country blissfully embraced the technology and especially the youth who viewed swiping the Bebacard for fares as trendier compared to the traditional cash payments.
Later on, Google teamed with Equity Bank to provide the Bebapay system which is only currently available in Nairobi so far.
The BebaPay system is meant to provide a cashless way for commuters to pay their bus fares. All that a passenger is required to do is to get a free BebaPay card from an Equity agent, top up the card with some money and simply have the conductor tap the card in their Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled smart-phone for the fare. An SMS (receipt) is then automatically sent to the passenger confirming the deduction and will also indicate the remaining balance.
It’s indeed a brilliant idea that provides for convenience, safety and goes a long way to save time especially where you have to wait for your change even after reaching your destination. However, conductors who have been evidently against the BebaPay system from the beginning seem to be doing a good job to sabotage the system.
BebaPay card – good idea, just needs implementing
More often than not they don’t have the smartphone to tap the Bebacards and even though BebaPay agents will tell you that you are entitled for a free ride in this case, the conductors are usually very arrogant from the time you hand in the card instead of cash and will always order you to give cash or alight and board another matatu. Ironically, the matatu has notices that read ‘BEBAPAY ACCEPTED HERE’ all over.
EMBARRASSED AND HARASSED
Most passengers for fear of embarrassment and inconvenience will choose to pay and vow not to top up their cards anymore, or if you come across a polite tout, they will just request you to pay half the amount being charged in cash.
“I was once harassed in a Citi Hoppa for giving my Bebacard instead of money and when I remained adamant that I was not going to alight, the conductor shamelessly removed the smart phone that he had claimed he did not have from his pocket and went ahead to deduct my fare twice”, says Fredrick.
‘“Nipe pesa! wacha ubabi na umetoka ghetto/stop acting posh yet you are from the ghetto” a tout in a Githurai bound bus once shouted at me after dishing out my BebaPay, I was so embarrassed and considering the rowdiness touts from this route possess, I just paid to be on the safe side yet the bus had a BebaPay sticker on it”’, says Irene, a Githurai resident.
The conductors will also argue that after sometime, especially in the evening, that the BebaPay system does not work. This is definitely to make sure that they pocket a good chunk of the proceeds of the day because if every passenger pays using BebaPay it means that all proceeds automatically go to the bus company and nothing will be left to the matatu crew.
All this encounters will definitely make more passengers shy from getting BebaPay especially because the harassments take place before the eyes of other passengers, but what’s the point of having the card if you cannot use it!
EFFICIENT SYSTEM BUT…
These problems notwithstanding, it’s indeed an efficient system that serves the interest of bus companies and passengers but to the disadvantage of the matatu crew, hence the sabotage goes without saying.
To get a BebaPay card you can sign up online or visit an Equity Bank branch or an agent with a BebaPay sign. Some of the buses where BebaPay is accepted include, Citi Hoppas, City Shuttles, MOA Compliant, selected UmoInner Sacco matatus.