Smart solution steering matatus onto cashless road


Smart solution steering matatus onto cashless road

Smart Matatu
Smart Matatu CEO Edwin Kiverenge (centre) explains to conductors of Orokise Sacco how his cashlite machine works on May 15 at Railways Bus terminus, Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

Three years ago, Edwin Kiverenge resigned as an engineer at Public Works ministry and invested his Sh1.5 million savings to develop a matatu payments platform.

In 2017, Mr Kiverenge hired three developers and leased an office in Nairobi where he spent the next 11 months developing his mobile and website applications that created an interactive dashboard for matatu owners, sacco officials as well as a front-end dashboard for the bus conductors. The apps are accessible via a handheld point of sale (POS) device.

Mr Kiverenge started with 10 buses that he provided the POS gadgets for free. Conductors use it to dispense receipts to fare-paying commuters, initially on a cash basis. “Matatu owners like the programmes that avail real-time information on money collected while sacco officials realise information received help them plan their route operations based on profitability,” he says.

The dashboard also facilitates automation of the waybill where trip reports are captured and submitted to respective stakeholders at the conclusion of every journey. Mr Kiverenge said the past month has witnessed a rise in uptake of his Smart Matatu solution as tech savvy passengers now demand use of a cashless platform.

The Smart Matatu platform, downloadable from Google Playstore, comes with a free-of-charge smart card that one uses to tap the POS which prompts a text message on the commuter’s phone requesting for confirmation of fare payment.


The platform got a major boost last year when it was integrated with M-Pesa platform, creating a one-stop facility where passengers automatically pay fares at no extra cost with the money sent directly to the matatu owner.

“Safaricom allowed Kenyan software developers to moot services that one pays via M-Pesa. We have a strong and secure platform that Kenyans relate with easily. They use it to pay for services and buy goods whose payments are settled via M-Pesa,” he said. The service, now in use by 225 buses plying various Nairobi routes, has also introduced production of data that is sent to Sacco officials to facilitate planning of their routes, enabling them to serve more customers.

For passengers, provision of a receipt grants one a sense of security as one can easily identify the matatu they boarded through a hotline number they can call to report any incident.

“Transport laws require each matatu operator to dish out tickets to their passengers but poor enforcement has witnessed operators ignore this requirement. Passengers are overcharged, dropped halfway and also abused with no recourse. This tarnishes the name of a sacco,” says the University of Nairobi (UoN) graduate.

Each commuter receives a smartcard that communicates with the Smart matatu POS gadget every time a payment is demanded with an M-Pesa payment request appearing on the commuter’s phone.

The cashless platform has become popular due to Covid-19 as most commuters shun hard currency. Mr Kiverenge who started off with three employees and made a loss in 2017 enjoyed a Sh1.2 million turnover in 2018 and has since expanded his operations to include salespeople who visit the matatu operators around the clock to service or replace the POS gadgets. He says only saccos with strong management teams that enforce strict discipline among members are enrolled on the platform that seeks to restore sanity in the matatu sector.

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