Humankind has evolved tremendously. It cannot be denied that there have been astounding changes in all facets of human life. One of them is the use of money in how we transact with each other.
The exchange of goods through the barter system collapsed when the concept of currency was established. As times changed, the concept of currency moved from coins to paper money, and eventually to cashless forms of monetary transactions. Today, we have reached a situation where a totally cashless society is actually achievable.
However, Uganda’s bus transport is still predominantly cash-based especially for the intra-state services.
There are exceptions like Ugabus.com which plays in the interstate sector and offers seamless payment solutions like online booking services through their mobile App and website.
Before we dig into the reasons why Uganda should have a contactless bus transportation system, let’s look at how other counties have transpired;
By most measures, Kenya is a shining model of financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the home of the wildly successful M-Pesa mobile money service, Kenya saw 79 percent of all citizens above the age of 15 make or receive digital payments in 2016, according to the 2017 Findex. Brookings Institution gave Kenya its highest score for the third year in a row in its 2017 Financial and Digital Inclusion Project report.
And yet, when the country attempted to make its bus transportation system cashless, the experiment failed miserably. It didn’t matter if the population had reached high levels of financial account ownership and usage. Without properly accounting for local factors, going cashless in the transportation sector was destined to collapse from the start.
To be sure, Kenya’s failed cashless bus experiment is a hiccup in the inexorable movement to a cashless society. Even within Kenya, there have been greater successes elsewhere, with matatu operators in Nakuru more readily adopting cashless payments following educational efforts that succeeded in promoting the service first, not the product.
In developing markets, the most successful transitions to cashfree transportation systems have been homegrown private-public partnerships, and Rwanda serves as the best example of that. Kigali’s transportation system was beset with many of the same problems as in Kenya — over congestion, delays, and lost revenue of up to 40 percent due to fraud, fare evasion, and pilferage. But Rwanda took a much different approach in designing a cashfree transaction system by embarking on a private-public partnership instead of the Kenyan government’s clumsy efforts to force private matatu operators to use separate private companies to process their transactions.
The Rwandan government awarded AC Group, a Rwandan tech start-up, with the contract to design a cashless transit payment system. Consulting with the government, commuters, as well as bus operators allowed AC Group to tailor the system to all constituents. (According to AC Group CEO Patrick Buchana in Hope Magazine)
As part of the Smart Kigali Initiative, three bus firms that provide public transportation services in Kigali agreed to transition to the contactless Tap&Go bus fare system created by AC Group. Tap&Go cards could easily be bought and refilled at bus stations using mobile money as well as cash and credit. The Tap&Go system managed to increase revenue by over 30 percent and speed up daily commutes. There are now over a million Tap&Go users in Rwanda, and 100,000 in Cameroon, where AC Group has expanded their operations and they have successfully tackled all the challenges caused by cash-based transportation.
Why do we need a cashless system?
The ease of conducting financial transactions is probably the biggest motivator to go digital. You will no longer need to carry wads of cash, plastic cards, or even queue up for ATM withdrawals when you are to travel.
Primarily, cashless transactions are faster and much more convenient compared to cash transactions thus saving much of the traveler’s time incase of bookings and making ticket payments. Furthermore, a cashless system eliminates the need to carry cash and count it out every time a transaction occurs and this fosters lower crime rates as there is no tangible money for criminals to steal both on and off board.
A cashless system also facilitates easier currency exchange while travelling abroad. For instance when traveling to Kenya or Tanzania, there is no need to figure out currency exchange rates as technology assists you in more ways than one.
If your phone is stolen maybe at the bus station, it is easy to block a mobile wallet remotely, but it is impossible to get your cash back. In that sense, the digital option offers some security. Since losing a phone is a common phenomena in Africa, cashless might be save that great inconvenience.
Also the risk of handling, storing, and depositing cash is eliminated. This further prevents the conductors and drivers from becoming the subject target of criminals especially thieves. Also cashless transactions hinder the generation of black money and therefore curbs corruption and supply of fake notes into society by travelers.
Cashless system of transaction also curbs the spread of infectious diseases from the travelers since they all come from different places and get confined in a bus. The spread of some bacteria and viruses is greatly fueled by cash transactions. I’d say cashless movements should lead the post-covid period.
There are many offers associated with cashless transactions than cash transactions for example the cashback offers and discounts offered by mobile wallets like Ugabus wallet, as well as the reward points and loyalty benefits.
In addition, there are quite a number of promotions that come from cashless transactions which all sums up to be rewarding and will be so beneficial to supplement people’s travel budgets post lock down. For example free trips, discounted tickets and zero charges for return journeys among others.
This means that the money you spent on candy or chips, or that bottle of soda while traveling is likely to take a hit since you will be short of loose change and smaller currency notes. There is a lesser chance of budgetary leaks and unaccounted for spends sneaking into your budget at the end of the journey.
Therefore by collecting extensive data through digital transactions, consumers can use behavioural insights to manage their spending habits and preferences while on board.
It may not seem like much of an advantage, but being cashless when traveling makes it easy to ward off circumstantial borrowers in the name of “I forgot or I have lost my wallet” . Another plus is that you can pay the exact amount without worrying about not having change or getting it back from the conductors as you know how some agents can be chaotic during the exchange of money.
People haven’t changed in that they still want to go places, but they are going to necessarily be a lot more cautious about what they do. And there is going to need not just persuading that it is safe to travel especially by bus but they’ll need to see actual physical changes made and one I suppose is cashless movement.
Considering its informal tendencies and proclivity to serve a disproportionate number of financially excluded populations, such as the elderly and informally employed, transportation systems in developing countries like Uganda present a unique challenge, but also a profound opportunity for firms like Ugabus.com to usher in a more efficient, less corrupt and more inclusive cashless society.
Remember, you can go cashless on your next bus trip by buying a bus ticket online. Use the Ugabus App. Click here to download.