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Technology

Equity eyes matatu billions in card venture with Google

  Deputy President William Ruto during the Equity Bank and Google Kenya’s launch of BebaPay prepaid card at Equity Centre in Nairobi on Tuesday. Photo/DIANA NGILA
Deputy President William Ruto during the Equity Bank and Google Kenya’s launch of BebaPay prepaid card at Equity Centre in Nairobi on Tuesday. Photo/DIANA NGILA 

The launch of BebaPay, a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled prepaid card, will certainly change the mobile payments industry.

Equity Bank and Google have partnered to unveil the commuter card where passengers top-up the card and use it to pay fare. All you do is swipe your card on an NFC-enabled phone and voila, the payment is done. Users will get free SMS receipts and can reload cash on the card through M-Pesa.

NFC is a payment system compatible with smartphones powered by Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows. The choice of Kenya as Africa’s launch pad for the payment solution by Google highlights the country’s vibrant telecoms industry.

Equity is eyeing the multi-billion shilling matatu industry from where it hopes to mobilise deposits and earn commissions from the service.

“It is a convenient local payment solution that makes it easy to budget and manage one’s expenses on a mobile phone or computer,” said Equity CEO James Mwangi. “It will help formalise the chaotic matatu sector.”

Currently, BebaPay is only available in Nairobi on routes served by MOA Compliant and Citi Hoppa buses. The bank plans to roll out the card to matatu saccos countrywide.

The BebaPay cards are available free of charge at Equity Bank and selling agents at bus termini. Users only need to top it up for use. The maximum deposit allowed on the card is Sh10,000. The card expires if one fails to top up for six months. However, it can be unblocked and the user accesses the balance.

“Research showed that technology could help bus operators and passengers to ease the process of ticketing, so we’re pleased that Nairobi commuters can now enjoy the advantages of BebaPay,” said Google Kenya country manager Joe Mucheru.

“Using NFC is part of Google’s efforts to improve transactions for both businesses and consumers. NFC makes it easier for people to pay for goods and services, and gives merchants extra ways to connect with their customers using technology and the Internet.”

The card has been on trial in Kenya for the past one year.

Lucia Atieno, a commuter who has been using BebaPay card for more than six months, said: “I now spend less on bus fares, since I can plan in advance how much money I need. The conductors never leave with my change, which used to happen a lot if I forgot to as ask for it.”

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