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Economy

Nairobi goes digital for parking fee payments

Cashless payments are expected to spare motorists the hassle of looking for parking attendants. PHOTO | FILE
Cashless payments are expected to spare motorists the hassle of looking for parking attendants. PHOTO | FILE 

Nairobi motorists will from Monday use their mobile phones to pay for parking in selected locations ahead of next month’s rollout of the service across the city.

City Hall officials said all motorists are, beginning September 1, expected to load money into their phones and pay for parking directly to the county’s accounts – bringing to an end use of printed receipts linked to heavy revenue leakage every month.

Piloting of the e-payment system was to start on Haile Selassie Avenue Monday but was suspended at the last minute for undisclosed reasons.

Conrad Siteyi of JamboPay, the firm that City Hall has hired to manage the cashless payment system, said the trial run is necessary to test the system for possible weaknesses.

Mr Siteyi said Jambopay has been testing the payment system over the past couple of months in readiness for the September 1 migration. “Unless we encounter a major problem, the full switch-on will be in two weeks.”

Drivers will need to have a Nairobi County mobile account for payments that are verifiable remotely through special electronic devices.

Motorists can register and access their accounts through a Google Android app or key in a USSD code, *217#, which prompts the user to open an account for future use.

Users of the USSD code will, however, bear additional cost payable to the mobile phone service providers (Sh5 for Safaricom and Sh3 for Airtel).

Those whose phones run on Windows and iOS will have to wait for three months for Jambopay to develop the relevant apps. In the meantime, Mr Siteyi said, such motorists will make e-payments through a designated web address (URL).

Payments to the mobile accounts will be made through banks, mobile money accounts like M-Pesa and through agents.

Transferring funds from mobile money accounts to the user’s county mobile account will attract transfer rates at the prevailing market rates.

County ICT director Benter Ogot said City Hall had registered 2,000 agents to help motorists open accounts and make initial payments free of charge.

“You have many options of topping up that have no monetary implications. You could just walk to a county agent and give them the money to top up for you,” she said

Ms Ogot added that payments through the popular M-Pesa paybill numbers would be “very complicated” as each of the multiple county services would need a different paybill number.

Payments will reflect immediately to avoid unnecessary clamping of vehicles. Mr Siteyi said this would be difficult to achieve with an external service provider such as M-Pesa paybill.

“Safaricom pushes updates (to organisations) at the end of the day. This means that county enforcement teams will have no data to act on throughout the day.”

Cashless payments are expected to spare motorists the hassle of looking for parking attendants whose role will be reduced to verifying payments through hand-held electronic gadgets that track vehicle registration numbers to Jambopay’s database.

This year, the county expects to net Sh5 billion from parking fees, making it the top revenue earner ahead of land rates.

Nairobi could, however, encounter problems of awareness as there has been no publicity for the planned transition even as the commencement date draws closer.

Parking attendants are expected to guide motorists on how to make payments in the early days of the transition.

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