Fibre Space Ltd, the firm behind cash light fare system ‘MY1963’ which had vowed to bring sanity in Kenya’s Matatu’s industry by use of its cash light system is blaming poor law enforcement for lack of uptake.
Announced in May 2014 and dubbed Jinice, the prepaid card promised to eliminate cash fares and cut revenue losses incured by Matatu owners, but from the day the cards launched to date, more money and time was lost than was saved and after having its fair share of highs and lows, Fibre Space Ltd seemed to have folded from the dreaded industry to focus on its other revenue streams.
Fibre Space Ltd began on a high. It managed to convince president Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Samoei Ruto to be its brand ambassadors and first customers. According to people familiar with the deal, Fibre Space managed to sell just one percent to Safaricom which saw transport payments as M-Pesa’s next big market. Safaricom wanted to go big with ‘My1963’ after missing out on BebaPay, the source added. It had to move first before its rival Airtel could seize the opportunity.
Fibre Space also managed to get Matatu Owners Association (MOA)’s support. My1963 had managed to get everyone on its side against the drivers and conductors wishes whose daily revenues were in danger. Commuters were to load money onto the card using M-PESA at a charge of Ksh 10 per top up. Commutters were to buy the cards at Ksh 50 from appointed M-PESA agents.
According to the chair Matatu Owners Association Simon Kimutai that time, “With the introduction of the My 1963 service, we are taking a proactive step in implementing the recommendation by the government to have fares paid through a cashless system. This development also marks a crucial milestone in the journey towards professionalizing public transportation in Kenya.”
It was a topdown approach and bound to fail. Days before February 1st government deadline for all Matatus to go cash less, five PSV Saccos with 250 vehicles plying Nairobi’s Jogoo road route turned to Fibre Space Ltd’s ‘MY1963’ to end cash payments for matatu fares and help eliminate revenue losses that the Matatu owners said stood at more than 30 percent of their daily earnings.
Fibre Space Ltd gave the matatu owners point of sale terminals and technical support to fast track adoption of the cards by passengers. About 40 youth were deployed to sell the ‘MY1963’ cards during rush hours at selected bus terminals in Nairobi.
A year later, My1963 is like a vocabulary to Matatu drivers, touts and conductors. Even the few passengers who had bought the cards don’t remember if they ever had them. Those who remember have long disposed them but Mwakio Ngale, General Manager of Fiber Space Limited insists the firm is still in operation.
“My1963 continues operations, we are looking at how we can increase awareness of the card in partnership with the transport industry through a couple of initiatives that we have lined up in the coming months,” Ngale told TechMoran. “The biggest challenge which led to slow uptake of product was enforcement which slowed down the project & adoptability of the product.”
Ngale says another issue was sensitizing the drivers and touts on the value added benefits of the service, which will introduce efficiencies and help the industry more accountable as whole.
Ngale says the firm is engaging with stakeholders to establish how it can incorporate all elements of the industry to ensure that they are all strategically aligned. To Fibre Space, any digital payment solution in the transport sector will require enforcement and participation of all stakeholders to ensure uptake.
With Beba Card gone, Abiria Card gone, KCB Pepea Card gone, My1963 says it’s still here and wishes the field had more players as it believes in a rich competitive environment that enables the growth of a number of players.