Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
“Cash payment only”, reads a sticker
in a matatu plying the city center-Lavington route in Nairobi,
The vehicle belonging to a popular company was among the first
to implement the cashless fare payment system that the Kenya
government is rooting for.
And as it left the city center to the suburb on Monday, some
passengers were ready to pay their fares using payment cards.
However, the conductor announced that he would not accept
“Please pay in cash,” he said. “We have stopped using the
When one of the passengers complained, the conductor retorted
as he pointed at the sticker pasted on the wall of the
minibus. “This is not my vehicle, I only follow orders.”
All passengers paid their fares in cash as those who had payment
cards complained of having wasted money on the gadgets.
The experience in the vehicle displays the fate of the cashless
fare payment in the East African nation. The system is
fast-fading from the country’s transport barely a month after
the government made frantic efforts to entrench it.
The Kenya government imposed a December 1, 2014 deadline as the
time when all the vehicles in the nation should be using payment
good number of matatu operators installed the system as banks
and mobile phone companies launched cards to cash in on the
Commuters, on the other hand, bought the cards to avoid being
inconvenienced. However, the little gains that were made in that
period are eroding as matatu operators who had embraced the
system go back to the cash.
“We were stopped from using the cashless system, because the
management found it cumbersome. They said they were having
cash- flow problems due to the bureaucracies involved in
getting payments from the bank. None of our fleet now uses the
system,” explained the conductor.
spot on various routes in the city indicated that there are
virtually no vehicles using the cashless system.
“When it failed to take off on December 1 last year, many
vehicles that had installed the system abandoned it. They have
the gadgets, but they are not using them,” said Manuel Mogaka,
a matatu operator on the Umoja route.
The ditching of the payment cards means that the Kenya
government has a herculean task in implementing the system.
“It is not only us who are uncomfortable with the system, even
passengers. Mid December last year, some passengers
disembarked from my vehicle when I insisted I was only taking
cashless fare. I had to accept cash because passengers were
not boarding,” said Mogaka.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure
Joseph Kamau said despite the challenges, the system will be
implemented fully. He noted that the government will only renew
licences of the vehicles that have installed the system.
But matatu operators have faulted the directive, noting that it
would be pointless to have the system when commuters do not have
“Those cards can only work with people who have regular income
and are able to budget a certain amount of money for fare
every month. But if your income is irregular and low, it
cannot work,” said George Ogundi, casual laborer who stays in
Kayole on the east of Nairobi.
Analysts note that the rush in implementing the system has made
Kenya’s public transport sector a “graveyard” where the cashless
payment will be buried.
“The government should have first started with revamping the
sector by coming up with a well-organized metropolitan buses
like those found in developed world. People would have seen
their benefits and embraced cashless fare payment,” said
Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi.