Kenya's matatu bus system to go cashless

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Media captionThe BBC's Anne Soy takes a ride on one of Kenya's new cashless matatus

Public transport in Kenya is going cashless as buses switch to new electronic fare payments.

From now on, the country's famously chaotic matatus, the minivans and buses that are used widely by Kenyan commuters, have been instructed to change to the new system.

But a Tuesday deadline for all buses to implement the cashless payments, or face fines, has been relaxed.

The sector's regulator has said that adoption will be gradual.

At least three companies are already using the new fare system, which operates in a similar way to London's Oyster card, with passengers pre-loading plastic cards with money and swiping them across a reader on board.

Customers can top up at agents, or by using mobile phone money transfer service M-pesa.

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Image caption Thousands of Kenyan commuters use the brightly painted, crowded matatus every day

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), responsible for implementing the policy, hopes it will help to tackle corruption and increase government tax revenue. Matatu operators have also seen benefits.

George Wanyama, manager of a company piloting the cashless system, told BBC Africa that revenue had gone up 30% in the two months since it was launched.

But operators had called for an extension of the deadline for implementation, citing fears of a police crackdown on non-compliant vehicles.


The Matatu Welfare Association said that as of last Friday, only 2,000 vehicles were compliant out of more than 20,000 in operation across the country.

Association chairman Dickson Mbugua warned that neither the public nor matatu operators had been properly educated about the cashless switch.

After dismissing calls for a deadline extension, the NTSA said late Monday that operators could continue to use cash in the short term.

"Some operators are compliant while others are not. We will be flexible to allow use of cash for the meantime," said NTSA director general Francis Meja.

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