The launch of the cashless fare payment system sparked fears of joblessness among thousands of young men who indirectly earn their livelihoods from ferrying of passengers. But the hoplessness is turning into a blessing in disguise as some of the youth get semi-formal jobs from the cashless payment.
Cash-Light Fare System ‘My 1963’, for its part, says it had created 2,000 youth jobs by December in partnership with more than 100 SACCOs running over 6,000 passenger service vehicles. Technology firm, Fiber Space Ltd, which earlier this year launched My 1963 as a multifaceted e-payment system, says it is addressing issues afflicting the passenger transport sector, in partnership with both the Matatu Owners Association and the Matatu Welfare Association, which represents matatu crew.
In measures to bring order to the public service vehicles (PSVs) sector, the government last year issued a directive requiring all PSVs to register under SACCOs to streamline administration. Under the same rules, each matatu under the SACCO must now have just one driver and a conductor.
However, thousands of otherwise unemployed youth have traditionally relied on the matatus for survival, earning fees from filling matatus, collecting ‘protection’ fees, and alerting matatus to inspections by county officials and road blocks. This network of associated roles has infamously been described as ‘the matatu cartels.’
But with more than 400,000 young people a year moving into joblessness after sitting for their primary and secondary education exams, and youth accounting for 70% of the country’s unemployed, the introduction of the new matatu rules has left many thousands more jobless.
My 1963 is, however, reversing the situation. Fiber Space Limited has partnered with the SACCOs to get the unemployed youth into groups, and deploy them in selling the My 1963 cards. For each card sold by the groups, the SACCO gets a commission of Sh20, which is used to pay the youth. It is a practical solution to the unemployment caused by the changes and is seeing now close to 2000 youth moved to a monthly payroll, and earning between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000.
“Anytime technology is introduced, there are always job loss fears. But with our product we decided to use technology to create jobs. We wanted a technology that encourages human interaction,” says Mr Mwakio Ngale, the owner and General Manager of Fiber Space Ltd.
Since December 1 2014, when the country officially went cashless in the payment of PSV fares, Fiber Space has sign up My 1963 card with 100 SACCOs that cumulatively have 6,000 matatus across the country, with many more now looking to sign up.
The MOA Compliant SACCO, for example, which plies the Ngong Road route, has a fleet of 67 buses and has employed 40 people to sell the cards. “It has proven transformatory for the unemployed youth. You can imagine the difference it will make if the same concept was adopted by all the SACCOs. We believe this is our little bit of making the world a better place for everyone,” said Mr Ngale.
Ummoiner SACCO, operating vehicles in the Umoja area of Nairobi, runs a football club as a social engagement to keep the unemployed youth busy. But the partnership with Fiber Space has now opened financial sufficiency doors to the youth as well. “Having made them our customer service agents has not only assisted us in pushing the card to as many customers as possible, but also created a new generation of young people who had traditionally lost hope but who now are empowered to dream and work for a bright future. It is the Kenya we all
want,” said Mr Ngale.
With an estimated 80,000 matatus in the country, the sale of transport cards is primed to be among the leading job creators in the country while leveraging on the growing integration of technology in the everyday lives of Kenyans.
“Our philosophy with the 1963 card is that every Kenyan deserves an opportunity to start and show their capability without necessarily knowing someone to get a job. It is the only way we will get this country ahead. We are glad the partnership with the matatu SACCOs is giving us such a platform,” Mr Ngale said.
He predicts demand for the Cash-Light Fare System will be like SIM cards, with a constant flow of new sign ups or replacements, making for a long-term role in selling cards that are now stopping the pilferage that costs matatu owners up to 30% of their daily earnings.
“The cards now ensure that money goes to the intended purpose and person while benefiting everyone in the sector,” he said.