Google Enters Kenya’s Payment Market With an NFC Enabled Beba Card

Posted In Technology - By Tech Mtaa On Thursday, May 24th, 2012 With 17 Comments

Just as we predicted that Google would want to colonise every part of African’s life, the company has now launched a prepaid debit card which is Near Field Communications (NFC) enabled used for purchase of bus fare in Nairobi.

Fearing to launch a direct competition to M-Pesa, the company is testing the waters through the Beba card which is targeted at commuters using the Citi Hoppa buses. Google hopes to help commuters avoid the abrupt hiking of bus fares as is common in Nairobi. The route charges are pre-loaded on to the system so this will mean that either commuters might not enjoy off-peak rates or that the bus conductors will just have to go cash when they feel greedy enough.

The card can be pre-loaded with up to Ksh 10,000 ($115) with every user allowed to have not more than 5 cards. The card expires if not used for more than 6 months. Payment is made by just tapping the card on a read which is carried by bus conductors.

Through the Beba website you can view all your transactions including the amount, date and location where you loaded the beba card with money. You can also view the service you used, amount you paid and the company which offered you the service.

Though this card now targets users of the Citi Hoppa buses, I see Google spreading its tentacles gradually to almost every sphere of our lives. I guess that it is pretending to do only the beba, targeted at commuters, because it fears Safaricom’s reaction.

Reading through the Beba TOS, you realise that there is no service charge for the use of the card but operators like Safaricom will definitely charge you when you transfer money from M-Pesa to the card.

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  • Government Chief Information O

    Something good coming to the transportation industry. Cashless distribution. Looking into more of such initiatives.

  • Mark Ngugi

    Dude are you just dumb or you have issues with thinking, after struggling through the grammatical errors, I have to ask whats the problem if Google is behind this? If the technology is convenient and beneficial, then so be it. Eish 

    • mary matengo

       You are going through a stage @twitter-98113486:disqus You must be following Robert for a reason. Maybe you are a closet homo. Why the insults? Which website do you write for so that we can see your grammar

      Again this is an opinion blog. You can be fapping at Robert’s image but when you show it in public, you scare everyone

      • Mark Ngugi

        I have to admit, I had to google the term fapping, nice one, I am floored. But like you said, its an opinion blog, hence I post my opinion comments, and you can post your opinion replies to my opinion comments, which TechMtaa approves to appear here or not. About the closet homo issue, maybe you are right. Your reply has everything to do with the NFC Beba card and thats why you had to post it

    • Government Chief Information O

      Lets take it easy Mark. It is beneficial. :-)

  • Martin Luyo

    Google is excused for wanting to try this out in Kenya. But are they not getting advise from their staff here? We all remember Megarider. It may have died with KBS. But then remember the red buses that looked all futuristic with customers using some pre loaded cards to pay fares. Seemed like an obvious success. It wasn’t. Soon the red buses after the pomp of being commissioned by Michuki became route 111 n 126 (where any transport is welcome) and nowadays I don’t see them at all. That fail is because of three of many factors: 1) Kenyans living on two dollars a day will NOT prepay for transport. Hand to mouth does not affor us that luxury.2) Kenyans who can affor to prepay 10k for transport have cars. 10k is what the cars cost them to run in a month. Not the target customers.3) Kenyans love and trust Safaricom. Google has a better chance working WITH Safaricom that against them. Afterall, Kenya knows Google for search not transport and/or money transfer.I bet you NFC will take off in Kenya but it will not be because of Google. Ask Virgin Atlantic; Kenya is not your average market.

    • AJ Musira

      Succinctly put. 

      There’s is however a section of the “middle class” that still takes buses. (including me), and can afford to pre-pay for transport. The question is how many of us are out there? Also, there is no City Hoppa service in my neighborhood. So why pay for transport that takes me everywhere except home? 

      I must say though that I’d recommend it for those people who are in a position to use it.

    • Government Chief Information O

      True. If properly structured, no reason why it cannot work. Google must be looking at the average being but we need to look at the bigger picture. All citizens!

      Best solutions :- Look at how much it costs to produce the card, in this case bulk purchase, 100 pieces can cost as low as $0.1 so should not be a problem.

      Have the bare minimum reload value of a 2 way trip. Town -> Destination -> Town since all public transport gets into town.


  • Wils

    Let technology take it’s course, i think google introducing the beba card is a good thing. 

    • Government Chief Information O

      It surely is!

  • Wils

    Google coming to the Kenyan market and introducing a beba card is good thing, we want technology to take it’s course,

  • AJ Musira

    Ok, let’s start afresh. 

    Robert, what is your opinion on The Beba Card? Is it a necessary tech in the transportation industry? You don’t say that in your article. What are its potential down sides? You don’t say that either. You seem to be struggling to find something wrong with it and the only thing you could come up with is that its from Google. 

    Is this card going to help make taking the bus easier? YES. So what is your problem with Google? I say business is business and if your beloved Safaricom couldn’t or didn’t want to develop this tech then why are we mad at Google for doing it? Do you think the person who no longer has to engage in an argument with a City Hoppa conductor will be as mad at Google as you seem to be? 

    I’ve been told in no uncertain terms on twitter (by you and others in your corner) that this is an opinion blog and I should stop being an “attention seeking whore” by pointing out your failings. But reading this article… I’m still struggling to get your opinion on this tech. this website is called “Tech Mtaa” after all innit?

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  • Alcove Media

    Kenyans love and trust Safaricom? Kenyans were practically programmed to use Safaricom who enjoyed the imposition of a monopolistic environment by a regime that would bend and spread to any corporation for a few pennies. This coupled with a competitor so dumb and racist they actually thought they could establish a communication network for Indians only.

    Google need not work with Safaricom anymore than a construction company need work with a colony of ants. As smartphones transform into full fledged computers, we are seeing smartphone technology trickling down to mid-range devices and soon to feature phones. NFC will be the new form of payment across all computerized devices. Google just needs to develop solutions usable across different demographics.

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