Technext’s podcast series, Techbytes, had its twenty-second episode focusing on how technology aims to make transportation more efficient, convenient, and accessible for people in Nigeria.
In the latest episode titled, Powering transportation with Tech in Nigeria, the hosts, Oluwadamilare Akinpelu and Omoleye Omoruyi, discussed with Afolabi Olamide, the co-founder and CEO of Touch and Pay technologies to discuss the importance of transportation and technology to provide better services in this age.
The fintech has partnered with the Lagos State government on the blue rail line project to facilitate using its Cowry cards for payment. It is currently working with the government to provide better services on the BRT transport system.
The main conversation with Afolabi Olamide focused on what birthed the idea to focus on transportation with its microtransaction services and its participation in the development and conclusion of the Lagos State transport plan system.
How did Touch and Pay Technologies enter the transportation ecosystem?
According to Afolabi Olamide, the startup’s vision is to digitize and process microtransactions, which is one major factor that has affected small merchants who engage in physical transactions from accessing loans. Among these similar challenges, they started seeking a way to digitize these transactions.
“So we thought to ourselves if we can digitise these transactions and can really solve this problem, we can potentially solve the issue of poverty in Nigeria.“
It is not a new thing that people prefer cash when making transactions because it is very reliable. Online transactions by POS merchants and bank transfers can be affected by unstable networks, and cash transactions cannot be affected.
“So we wanted a technology that can mimic that reliability, mimic your wallet meaning it can also work offline which is why we went for contactless to be able actually to solve that problem.“
Finding a use case like a focal core that impacts all social classes in society, transportation seemed to them as that connection, and that was what birthed the idea to penetrate the transportation system.
Afolabi Olamide said:
We decided to focus on transportation, and then eventually, once we have dominated, we can expand to other areas where we have these problems.
According to the co-founder, users’ feedback has been fantastic and encouraging, and it drives and motivates the business to do more.
Afolabi Olamide also discussed TAP’s partnership with the Lagos State government on the blue rail project and the deal’s endpoint for the business.
The blue rail project is not the first Touch and Pay technologies partnership with the Lagos State government. It also currently works with the BRT buses, LagFerry, etc.
“It is really a jackpot. It was at that time when everybody was saying you have to buy naira to save naira. They (the state government) were looking for a local company to do it and we happen to be at the right place at the right time. We ran a pilot for when they wanted to launch the BRT buses for the Abule-egba corridor axis and they said it is not so bad.“
After launching over 10,000 cards for the BRT buses, people did not trust the idea initially. However, it’s been two years, and Afolabi Olamide feels very proud of how far they have come as a company.
The idea and its success were what brought them into play with Lagos State, especially as they share the same vision of providing a public transport system that is functional and accessible for everybody.
On how the partnership deal is going for both parties, Afolabi Olamide says in a state like Lagos, especially with the government involved, there is a need for hard work, commitment, and accountability.
‘We have to be at 99.9% all the time meaning the number of complaints versus the number of transactions that we do must be so higher. So right now, we do around 45 million transactions monthly and the number of complaints is around 2,500.“
One of the wins for the business is its impact on society. Beyond creating a solution, the state’s vision is also to empower people. and according to Afolabi, Cowrycard has employed over 2500 people directly and over 10,000 indirectly.
Partnership with the federal government
Speaking of impacting the transportation system all over Nigeria, Afolabi Olamide explained that TAP is looking forward to a partnership with the federal government. The company is currently operating in a few other states outside Lagos.
“Naturally the expansion to a federal level is something that will happen whether or not we have the support of the federal government.”
When asked what transportation model the company is looking to use in other states, Afolabi said that other states are following after Lagos to provide more public transport systems, and private bodies are also looking to penetrate this market.
Obstacles to overcome to realize the potential of a tech-powered transport system
Speaking on this, Afolabi Olamide referenced the startup ecosystem and the struggles founders, especially in Africa, face. To be successful as a founder, one needs to be very resilient and resourceful.
“There are so many problems that we need to solve to make a functional transport system.and one of it is aligning with stakeholders, understanding their needs, and breaking cultural barriers.”
In this case, aligning with stakeholders is one obstacle that needs to be dealt with.