Public transport is going cashless in Kigali, Rwanda, with smart card payments and mobile money schemes being launched simultaneously with much fanfare. Can Kigali succeed where regional giant Kenya failed a couple of years ago?
Nairobi’s attempt to impose cashless payment technologies in public transport (particularly the matatus, ubiquitous white mini buses that ply the roads) began in mid 2013, when tech behemoth Google partnered with Equity Bank to launch the now defunct BebaPay card. What happened next can only be called a case study of how not to introduce service innovation in the informal economy of sub Saharan Africa. And they weren’t the only ones, yet none of the contenders are still operational today.
“So what’s different about Rwanda’s approach, and what are its chances of success?”
The first thing I noticed is that the NFC enabled smart cards are being validated by the device attached to the vehicle, as can be seen in the photograph above.