Bus industry goes hi-tech with mobile ticketing apps


Mash Bus Services is using the eManamba ticketing system. Photo/Laban Odhiambo

Of the three journeys Fred Mogaka has made to Mombasa this year, he made all the bookings through his mobile phone, beating the long queues associated with buying tickets at bus booking offices.

The tech-savvy student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology says he learnt of mobile ticketing when he was buying a concert ticket online and decided to give it a try.

“I found it very convenient,” said Mr Mogaka, a third year information technology (IT) student.

Kenya’s public service vehicle sector has gradually been embracing technology in a bid to cut costs, spur sales and increase efficiency through use of mobile and online ticketing apps as well as prepaid travel cards.

Google in May this year began piloting its pre-paid travel card dubbed beba in Nairobi and it is acceptable at Citi Hoppa commuter buses. The transit card allows users to load money onto it and ‘swipe’ to make payments through use of near field communication (NFC) technology which is available in high-end smart phones.

Remember Megarider, the discount tickets introduced by the Kenya Bus Service in Nairobi sometime back? It is set for a comeback early next year, this time, as an NFC-enabled pre-paid smart card. Kenyan techies have rushed to cash in on the chaos associated with the public transport by developing solutions that save you the hustle and bustle of booking tickets at local bus stations.

Mobile ticketing apps allow users to order, pay for, obtain and validate tickets for events, travel, goods, and services in real-time at the convenience of their mobile phones. A recent study by iHub, a tech innovation hub in Nairobi, shows that the mobile phone has evolved to offer more than the traditional call and text utilities to carry apps in fields such as finance, health, agriculture and enterprise.

In a country where seven out of every 10 Kenyans have access to a mobile phone; with mobile accounting for 98 per cent of all Internet and data subscriptions; mobile-based transport solutions can go a long way in bringing sanity to the otherwise chaotic matatu sector. One such solution is eManamba, an online ticket shop that allows travellers to book tickets for various bus companies in Kenya in real-time using their mobile phones or computer.

“Planning for long distance travel by bus in Kenya has always been a challenge especially during the peak seasons,” said James Odero, the brain behind eManamba.

Passengers make reservations by selecting their preferred seats, making payments through mobile money transfer and the e-tickets are delivered to their phones.
The bus companies that use the eManamba app are Easy Coach, Mash, Spanish Coach, Tahmeed and Queens Coach which ply to local and regional routes such as Kampala, Dar-es-Salaam, Kigali and Juba.

The service is commission-based hence the bus companies pay for successful transactions made via the portal. Last year, an average of 80 bookings were made per month through eManamba and this year 1,200 online travel tickets have been sold as at November 2012.

The app also has an SMS alert module that alerts the booking clerks at the bus counters on any online booking done. Another solution is M-Shop, a mobile ticketing platform that goes beyond bus tickets to include events, goods and services and is available both as an app for smart phone users and is also available online.

The app is the brainchild of three techies —Marcel Auja, Kelvin Ziano and Alloys Meshack —who got Sh430,000 in the inaugural Pivot 25 competition after their pitch emerged top in the mobile payments and commerce category.


Step 1. SEARCH: Access the website via your computer at and choose your destination, preferred dates of travel and the number of travellers then proceed to search for buses available.

Step 2. CHOOSE your preferred bus company and time of departure. Choose your favourable seating location in the bus.

Step 3. RESERVE the chosen seat by entering the personal details of travellers and the booking person. Confirm that the entered personal details for all the travellers are correct.

Step 4. MAKE PAYMENT through M-Pesa or Airtel Money.

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