Matatu operators opposed BebaPay

While cashless payment system enables PSV owners to track payments, operators fear it will  kill their huge side hustle cash returns. [PHOTO: FILE]


NAIROBI, KENYA: Matatu operators are opposed to the BebaPay — a cashless payment system for commuters. The platform, launched last April by Equity Bank in conjunction with Google, is facing challenges.

This is evidenced by its sluggish penetration despite having started on a positive note.  The regulations published by Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau compel all Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) to operate a cashless fare payment system by July 1.

As part of the regulations, PSV operators will also be required to ensure that passengers are issued with tickets or receipts for fare paid.


But Matatu operators do not like BebaPay since it denies them that extra cash that they would have otherwise not remitted to the matatu owners. The operators we spoke to say the system is denying them ‘their fair share’ of the day’s proceeds.

“With the system, you cannot be left with some cash at the end of the day to even buy milk since we depend on salary,” said Peter Mwangi, a conductor on Route 33. “Traffic police officers usually have their share and we will lack something to oil their hands hence ending up in cells,” adds Albert Musyoka, a conductor on Route 46. Despite aggressive marketing, BebaPay is still struggling with few matatus embracing it.

Normally, the conductors and drivers only remit the amount collected from people who board the matatus at initial departure points.

Other collections from overloaded passengers or those who board along the way remain with conductors and drivers. BebaPay eliminates this by ensuring all the collections are remitted directly to the matatu owners’ BebaPay accounts.

As a result, the operators sabotage it. In daily routines, conductors keep the day’s revenues unrecorded so that they remain with some cash at the end of the day. This is complicated by the fact that Saccos run some buses or matatus. According to Google Communications and Public Relations Manager Dorothy Ooko, BebaPay have 50 plus bus companies using the system. “This increase shows the unique aspect of the card and why bus owners want to sign up. Some of the routes using BebaPay include Ngong Road, Jogoo Road,  Thika Road, Waiyaki Way and Mombasa Road.”


She says bus companies that are using BebaPay are MOA Compliant, CitiHoppa, Kilele, Zamzam, Unified Poa, and Metro Trans. “We expect more transport operators to sign up for the service following the passing of new traffic and safety laws,” adds Ooko.  She says matatu owners have seen the advantages of BebaPay and are pushing for its use by their drivers and conductors. “They can track real time sales online through a dashboard and be able to see how each route fares in terms of passenger capacity. This comes in handy when making decisions on which route to invest in or add a bus,” she says.

Some touts interviewed by The Standard said they stopped offering BebaPay services after their phones got lost. Ooko says National Transport Safety Authority is also looking at having a fixed device Point of Sale in the buses, where passengers will tap and pay to  solve the problem of loss of smartphones.


 “We are continuing with consumer awareness about the service. In a recent survey we carried out, we found that 80 per cent of consumers were aware of the existence of BebaPay,” says Oooko. She says the hurdle remains having all buses and matatus accept BebaPay as an option. However, it is not the first time cashless banking system is being introduced in the country. 

Kenya Bus Services had one called Mega Rider Cards but failed. They now they have Abiria Card. Multinational credit card company Visa is to introduce a service that will enable commuters to pay fares using mobile money. This will be in addition to Lipa Na M-Pesa by Safaricom and Abiria Card by KBS.

Family Bank is also targeting a pie of the lucrative transport sector with the optimisation its PesaMob virtual bank account to act as a cashless payment option for PSVs.