Commuters to pay matatu fare on M-Pesa


Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, Safaricom chief financial services officer. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

Commuters will now pay bus fare in the same way money is sent from one person to another, in efforts to limit cash transactions in public transport.

This follows a partnership between Safaricom #ticker:SCOM with public transport sector players to accept cashless payments through M-Pesa in the ongoing battle to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The partnership will see matatu crew begin accepting fares through their phone numbers. “Businesses are seeing an increase in demand to accept M-Pesa payments due to the ongoing concerns around the coronavirus and our recent move to enable Kenyans to send M-Pesa transactions of Sh1,000 and below for free,” said Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, the chief financial services officer at Safaricom.

“Our partnership brings the convenience and safety of M-Pesa to this crucial sector given the widespread uptake of public transport across the country,” Mr Lopokoiyit added.

Safaricom said on Monday that the service has already been deployed to more than 300 City Star Shuttle vehicles in Nairobi and will be rolled out to additional players in the coming days, helping them further comply with the government’s recommendations to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Passengers paying their fares through M-Pesa will follow the standard procedure when sending money to another person, keying the number provided by the crew.

Among measures to help minimise the impact of coronavirus to its customers and to help them avoid the use of cash, Safaricom has announced all its M-Pesa customers can send money for free for transactions of Sh1,000 and below for 90 days.

Until now, the only way one paid for services using mobile money transfer services was either through the buy goods till or paybill numbers. This can be a tedious process for public transport operators who mostly receive less than Sh100 per trip on most city routes.

This comes at a time when Kenya has 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The government has asked players in the financial sector to cut transaction costs on cashless transactions to avoid the risk of spreading the virus using banknotes.

On Monday, players in the sector asked the government to reduce the costs of fuel to compensate them for the losses or warned that they will be forced to increase fares. The health ministry has reduced the number of passengers in a 14 seater matatu to 8 while the larger capacity vehicles will now lose 40 percent of their revenues in every trip if they kept the fares at the same levels. The long-distance buses will take a bigger hit since they have more costs to incur and their business makes sense if they can carry as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits that come with economies of scale.