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Google quits cashless fare business after BebaPay exit

Google had more than 100,000 active BebaPay users. PHOTO | FILE
Google had more than 100,000 active BebaPay users. PHOTO | FILE 

Google’s BebaPay cards have been withdrawn from the market, marking the death of Kenya’s pioneer commuter card aimed at streamlining the chaotic matatu sector.

The California-based company has announced BebaPay prepaid cards will be discontinued in the Kenyan market from March 15, and urged users to migrate to other travel cards.

Google had partnered with Equity Bank to pilot the use of BebaPay for bus fare in early 2012 and formally unveiled the cash-lite solution in April 2013.

“We would like to inform you that the BebaPay service will be discontinued on March 15th, 2015,” Google said in a notice to customers.

“We encourage you to exhaust your balance on any BebaPay accepting buses before 15th March, 2015 or get a refund after 28th March, 2015,” the tech giant said.

The withdrawal of BebaPay in the Kenyan market comes barely 10 months after Google withdrew the card from the Philippines market where it had deployed it at De La Salle University in Manila.

The company has advised BebaPay customers to transit to the Equity prepaid MasterCard at no extra cost. Google Kenya declined to comment on what led to the termination of BebaPay, but said the tech firm is shifting focus from the payments space.

“We are consolidating projects to focus on less within the payments space,” said Dorothy Ooko, Google’s communications and public affairs manager for East and Francophone Africa.

The firm said it had more than 100,000 active BebaPay users.

The death of BebaPay comes as a boon to rival firms offering cash-lite matatu solutions such as Pepea (KCB), Tangaza Pesa PSV card, My 1963 (Safaricom) and Co-op Bank’s M-Nauli.

The government has banned the use of cash in public transport fare payments, but gave the public service vehicle (PSV) operators time to transition with a deadline for December.

Kenya’s lucrative PSV industry grossed Sh218.1 billion in revenue in 2013, whetting the appetite of banks and mobile money firms that stand to rake in at least Sh2.1 billion annually in commissions, assuming a processing fee of one per cent.

The cashless fare system is expected to curb erratic increases in fares and enable Kenya Revenue Authority collect taxes from the industry.

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