Driving new roads

This blog is part 3 of a 5 part series on what is financial inclusion and how is it informing the design of the curriculum for IDDS Kenya.

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Back in Nairobi, James Diya (26) is excited to be testing a new solution that could help him make his limited income more reliable. Living in Kibera, the world's largest slum with more that 1 million dwellers, James has been working as a matatu driver for the last 5 years, making a living of around US$ 10 to US$15/day.

Matatus, together with boda bodas (street motorcycles, right) are probably the only affordable means for the majority of people in Kenya to travel long and short distances. As a matter of fact, about 70% of the capital’s 1.3 million commuters use a matatu at some point every month for their commute because it is cheap and convenient. However, getting a ride on a matatu could also be onerous and time consuming from beginning to end as most of them wait for it to be completely full before leaving the stop/station. They can also be dangerous as they literally fight to beat traffic to the destination and back to the station in record time, as they pay daily rates to the van owner(s).

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Matatus are on average 14-seater privately owned minibuses that feature very impressive and colorful designs, multicoloured patterned ceilings, front view cameras and television screens that play music videos, reflecting the funkiness of the local culture. They also feature 2 main characters, a driver and tout (conductor). The conductor’s job is to fill up the van in record time by shouting its destination and the fare required for the trip. The driver’s job is to beat the traffic to the destination and back to the station in record time since day want to make most of the daily fees paid to the van owners.

Despite of the Kenyan government's measures to develop infrastructure projects from BRT (Bus rapid transit) to a light rail systems, matatus seem to be here to stay, at least in the short and medium run.

The convenience of matatus is usually offset by its unreliable service as  they often employ cutthroat measures such as fares that double or even triple when the weather turns rainy, breakneck speeds and driving in highway medians or across sidewalks to complete more trips, filling a bus with “poster passengers” to make it appear as though the bus is nearly full and thus about to depart and so on.

Without assurance of continued employment, benefits, regular salary, or daily earnings, drivers and conductors are also unprotected in many ways leaving them vulnerable to sudden and unexpected changes.

What some companies like Mobiticket and BuuPass have been doing in order to alleviate this situation is using a simple offline ­text-messaging mobile app, commuters can book seats, buy tickets via mobile devices and check the fares, schedules and real-time locations of buses. Users text a code to get information about bus type, fare and estimated time of arrival. They then text another code to buy a digital ticket, which they show to the bus conductor when boarding. For short distance, commuters can pay after they are inside the vehicle.

Additionally, drivers like James are also benefiting from joining Mobiticket as he can immediately gain access to a rapidly growing number of commuters. This will lead to a structured and more reliable and predictable income stream for his vehicle. Finally, through this platform, structured remuneration allows conductors and drivers a credit score allowing them to access loans from financial institutions. The bus crews also benefit from free health Insurance cover. The conductor and driver are automatically enrolled to the scheme free of charge.  

The bus owner from his side receives structured daily reports on how his vehicle is performing. Reports and statements can be generated at any time, and last but not least both crew and commuters earn bonus points when each use of the platform. Points can be redeemed for free rides, cash, airtime or fuel.

Stay tuned for the next story from the field!

IDDS Kenya 2018 will be held in Embu from July 8 to 23 with the aim to co create solutions to boost access to innovative financial products and services focused on rural populations. We encourage to follow our journey. We are also crowdfunding for selected participants with high potential that are unable to pay for their transportation and expenses during the summit. If you or anyone you know would like to contrtibute to the cause please click in in our StartSomeGood crowdfunding campaign https://startsomegood.com/projects/financialinclusionkenya.