Kenya has approximately 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land.
Kibera slums, one of the biggest slums in Africa houses almost 1 Million of these people making it the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. Apparently, Kibera’s 1 million residents share 600 toilets, meaning that on average one toilet serves 1,300 people. This has seen many residents opt to using other means including usage of ‘flying toilets’ putting most people’s health at a risk.
This has seen more Non-Governmental Organisations coming up with solutions to this problem. It is through this that Umande Trust an NGO at Kibera has developed over 25 bio centres across Nairobi and about 10 bio centres across Kibera to enhance bio sanitation. Bio sanitation is premised on the need to close the loop in the waste management process and thus turn waste into resources. Bio centres apply ecological sanitation principles to ensure that human waste in ablution blocks are turned into wealth by producing gas through a bio digester system and producing fertilizer as a by-product.
However, the most amazing fact about the bio centres is the fact that they have largely embraced the cashless system in all the services they provide from paying for movies and football matches at the centres, cooking for families at kshs. 10 to even paying for sanitation services. Also technology is highly being used in the centres as there are sensors at the entrance and counter systems in each toilet that help by giving a headcount to everyone who accesses the facility.
According to Umande Trust Boss Nairobi, Josiah Omotto the cashless journey started way back, “We started using cash payments which became cumbersome and also we could not give back to the community as we wanted. Then we decided to try using m-pesa but still at some point we had to deal with cash where we have to move the money to an account something we really wanted to avoid. Later on we tried kopo kopo who are partners of Safaricom. Kopo kopo co-markets with Safaricom to promote the Lipa na M-PESA service with small and medium-sized businesses, but still it did not work for us.”
Omotto further explained that they didn’t give up after trying kopo kopo, they came up with a swipe card developed by two students from JKUAT and was dubbed as Bio-Card which used the RFID technology.RFID technology is wireless non-contact use of radio frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. However,the cards are still in use though they come with a challenge of being expensive and can be easily duplicated.
Later on, after Bebapay was launched in the transport sector, they approached Equity bank and google and formed a partnership in regards to cashless payment using the beba card which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
Bebacard was started within Umande Trust Sanitation facility 8 months ago . This means that the community will never pay the caretaker cash money instead just tap the card to the phone and the service charges are deducted and the money transfered directly to the groups account.
The cards are issued freely to the members of the community and currently over 300 cards have been issued but only 50 are in use which is a challenge as many people still opt for cash. Currently, the NGO plans to ensure that by March every community member uses the card and also plans of having Equity agents within the Bio centre are underway as this will help the community in topping up and making transactions.
Presently, paying for services at the facilities currently using the card are a shilling cheaper as compared to using cash and this has seen the number of community members embracing the cashless payment go up.
Mary Achieng’ a resident at Kibera who frequently uses the facility said that she was impressed by the move to use digital cash, the Beba card is easy to use as it enhances money safety and less handling of cash. “I now just have to tap and go, tap and use the bio digester to make food for my family and also tap to get sanitation services”
Once a transaction is made the card holder gets a notification in form of a text in regards to the amount deducted and the current balance.The group members too can see transactions clearly on the Dashboard, beba phone and the groups Gmail account.