Many of us can’t help but wonder why even now when we are experiencing this liquidity crunch here in Zimbabwe, still, mobile money solution providers keep hitting a brick wall in the public transport industry? Probably back in 2012 when EcoCash launched EcoCash Commuter it faced resistance from both kombi operators and passengers mainly because people had not really embraced the plastic money solution. Again, the USSD process proved to be really time-consuming, than just handing in your $0.50 cent coin. Therefore, how about now introducing a product like the NFC ‘tap and go’ card as it proves to be fast and efficient unlike the USSD processes. My wildest guess is that it will work this time around.
Mobile payment solutions are being accepted in some other developing African countries? Kenya’s adoption of M-PESA mobile money payment solution to pay for bus-fares among other things is really admirable. Here in Zimbabwe attempts were made to introduce the same mobile money payment solution in the taxi industry but succumbed to resistance, and was a fiasco. The gospel of making payment towards bus fares keeps falling on deaf ears, despite now when even faced by an excruciating cash crisis in our country.
Previous Attempts to Introduce Mobile Money Payment Solution in The Taxi Industry
Allow me to take you back in memory lane. Remember back in 2012, Econet owned EcoCash mobile money solution introduced EcoCash Commuter a service that allowed mobile money users on the Econet network to pay bus fares using EcoCash. The introduction of EcoCash payments in kombis was met by large skepticism noting that kombi crews like handling cash for reasons I will shed light on in the article. Kombi crews were thus reluctant to adopt EcoCash and some didn’t even know the whole registration process. And then there were some kombis who even had the EcoCash stickers yet they didn’t accept EcoCash payments. They were just enjoying the $80 per month that Econet were paying for advertising.
Again, another reason why it faced resistance was that it proved to have been a tiresome process paying bus fares via EcoCash for customers compared to just taking out a coin and paying the regular way. Users had to go through the USSD menus to make payment and after paying the kombi crew had to do manual verifications to check who had and who hadn’t paid. And while we’re on the kombi crews, the EcoCash payment method means they won’t handle cash anymore, something they’re likely not to be excited about.
Econet tried promoting bus fare payments using EcoCash by coming up with some exciting promotions that included subsidizing the kombi fares by US 25 cents for an entire week for people who were paying via EcoCash. This meant that half of the fares were to be paid by Econet just for using their platform, but again, it failed to materialize merely because there wasn’t any support coming from the taxi industry, considering that it takes two to tango.
Reasons why mobile money payment solutions keep facing resistance in the taxi industry
Traffic Police Corruption and Harassment – We have all witnessed this at some point. This is no secret that many police officers mounting roadblocks are corrupt and a number of them have also been dismissed from the force. Of late, there has been concern among Zimbabweans at the high number of roadblocks, both in cities and highways, raising suspicion that police were out to fleece motorists. Now here is the catch why mobile money providers keep on hitting a brick will in their bid to introduce the payment solution in the taxi industry. These traffic police officers only accept cash, since they don’t want to leave any paper trail that may link and complicate them to any corrupt activities unless caught on camera like some videos we see circulating on social media platforms. Well played, huh?
Therefore, due to a high demand of cash from traffic police officers, that on its own justify some of the kombi crews resistance towards accepting mobile money payments. If there is to be an improvement in accepting the mobile payment system into the taxi industry in Zimbabwe, then mobile money solution providers of course with largely the assistance from government should enforce the use of swipe machines by these law enforcement agents to lower corruption, at the same time leveraging kombi crews to accept mobile money payments from customers.
Commuter Taxi Crew – This is a no-brainer. One other most problematic issue that contributes to the commuter taxi industry resistance to mobile money payment solutions is heavily indebted to Kombi crews (drivers and conductors) personal needs that results in maximizing personal income or gain. Kombi crew engage in activities that even the owner is unaware of.
This repeated tendency by the user of an owner’s asset to act and behave as if they are the owners of the asset is majorly leading to the resistance of mobile money payments solutions here in Zimbabwe. Kombi crew act as if they are the kombi owner. For instance, kombi crew can decide to invade other operational routes (this answers their resistance to tracking devices on kombis), risking heavy traffic fines. They do it anyway. Therefore, just like their other corrupt traffic police counterparts their need for cash is by no means a coincidence but a means to avoid any proof of payment from the owners.
Resistance to change – Resistance to change is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them. Key words here are ‘perceive’ and ‘threat’. The threat need not be real or large for resistance to occur. Now after having explained what resistance to change is all about, does that just remind you of a friend, workmate or family member who is always resistant to change? An individual is likely to resist change for the following reasons: uncertainty, habit, concern over personal loss, and the belief that the change is not in their best interest. How many people do you now have on your list?
Understand this, some people are just intimidated by change, hence the need for these kind of people to be thoroughly educated on some of these innovations like mobile money payment solutions that they believe will swallow up their money in the system, instead it actually protects them from running risks of carrying cash around.
Recommendations that may actually contribute to mobile money adoption in the taxi industry
Support from Government – How can government effectively offer support to mobile money payment solution providers? Having noted traffic police corruption and harassment, the government needs to enforce the use of swipe machines by these law enforcement agents to lower corruption on roadblocks, both in cities and highways for people to pay fines. Again, another issue that needs to be addressed in the transport system is the mode of payment. Considering that the liquidity crunch is now a national crisis hence the need for the government to also play its role in promoting the use of plastic money more often (plastic money economy) by sort of coming up with a legal framework that also includes the public transport sector, in liaison with the Transport Operators Association of Zimbabwe and mobile money platforms like EcoCash, TeleCash and OneMoney. The use of plastic money should be one of government’s solutions to address the current cash shortages in the country.
On a different note, the public transport system has proven to be a nightmare for residents. Motorists and pedestrians have suffered at the hands of both commuter omnibuses and illegal pirate taxis commonly known as “mushikashika”. Running battles between the spike carrying police and public transport providers have left many injured and some even dead.
Lets say I choose to go along with Zim-Assest which advocates for an empowered society and a growing economy, indeed there is need for an efficient public transportation system that caters for a flexible mode of payment for transport. There is need to introduce conventional buses that operate on standardized prices, routes and time
There is need for investment in railway and conventional buses so to have an efficient public transport system. The operators may not necessarily be the current NRZ and ZUPCO, but we need similar entities to operate our public transport system.
I suggest that the public transport sector embrace the use of plastic money. In terms of payment system, public transport must now embrace technology and accept payments from plastic money and also come up with a prepaid system. This is stemming from the fact that cash shortages are a nationwide crisis and the government needs to be fully involved on this.
Introducing E-Payment Systems – Taking you back in time to 2012 when EcoCash Commuter was launched, another reason why it faced resistance was that it proved to have been a tiresome process paying bus fares via EcoCash for customers compared to just taking out a coin and paying the regular way. Users had to go through the USSD menus to make payment and after paying the kombi crew had to do manual verifications to check who had and who hadn’t paid. Since going manual didn’t work, how about now adopting the e-payment system?
The introduction of the e-payment system will be an easy and less time consuming process of making transactions or paying for bus fares through an electronic medium without the use of check or cash. E-payment is also called an electronic payment system or online payment system.
Kindly note that I am not suggesting on a new mode of payment that has never been tried and tested. I am looking at a model that too can be adopted here in Zimbabwe and will work because technology is indeed transforming the way we relate to transit. Not wanting to look far abroad, but here in Africa in Kenya where Matatu and bus operators across the country introduced the new cashless fare system.
For instance in the UK, London buses accept contactless cards to pay fare and there are numerous ways to pay.
There are different ways to pay for your bus fare:
- A contactless payment card to pay as you go
- An Oyster card with pay as you go credit, Travelcard or Bus & Tram Pass
- A Visitor Oyster card
- A Day Travelcard or a One day Bus & Tram Pass
Tap-and-Go Payment Service
Who still remember EcoCash Ta ‘Tap and Go’ service? The EcoCash Ta used a technology called Near Field Communication which enabled clients to tap their cellphone against a merchant or vendor’s enabled micro point-of-sale device and the value of the transaction was automatically deducted from the client’s EcoCash account. No PIN was required when paying for purchases of up to $3, and any transaction above $3 required a PIN. That was one service that was going to break through into the Zimbabwean taxi industry if had been exploited to greater lengths.
I am sorry to bust your bubbles, but personally I think its time we both land on the earth, face reality and accept that this is what it is now in our country (a plastic money economy), whether you are in business or on individual capacity that mobile money transfer solution is now a new mode of payment, therefore, must be embraced. Otherwise, to the business community, failure to accept it as a new mode of payment you are likely to close shop and as an individual may end up paying extra unnecessary charges to those unscrupulous agents who charges over 20% to get you cash. That is undoubtedly a heavy loss to you, because for instance you want to cash out $100, you end up parting away with only $80 after giving the agent at least $20 from your hard earned money. Seriously, is that worth it? Help me understand.
Do you think it’s a bad idea after all to some people who shared or still share Prince Shumba’s 2012 sentiments considering the state of our economy right now which has swiftly moved to a plastic money economy?