Cowry’s ‘tap to ride’ contactless payment is making transit easier for Lagosians to commute during the pandemic
Moving through the bustling streets of Lagos comes with many tales, from angry conductors screaming for payment to arguments about ride fares and cash balance from payment; the experience can be very exhausting. Over a year ago, a group of innovators came up with the Cowry card and App, an ingenious solution making payment on public transport easier and more convenient.
The solution removes the need for middlemen such as conductors, Lagosians popularly called ‘Agbero’, by making payment for rides completely digital. Commuters simply need to tap their cards or scan their App to pay for rides, making the entire process completely contactless.
The company kick-started operations in Lagos by assisting the government in switching from paper tickets to contactless and digital ticketing for the state’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Since then, the card and app usage has gradually grown popular and is currently being used by millions of commuters across the state. It can also be said that the technology helps to drive the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless policy, which aims to reduce the amount of physical cash in circulation, thereby encouraging the use of electronic platforms for settlement or payment for goods and services.
During the recent 1st anniversary of the solution, Adebayo, a regular user of the Cowry card, expressed that he loved the innovation. Adebayo explained that he didn’t have to think about transport fare whenever he left home since he started using the card.
“All I do is load the card with about ₦20,000, and I don’t have to worry about transportation for the rest of the month,” he said.
Like Adebayo, many Lagosians have welcomed the new change. Sarah, another commuter, pointed out that she likes the card because it saves her the old trouble of looking for tickets or looking for smaller denominations for trips.
Similarly, Mohammed, who has also been using the card for about four months, commented that it has been extremely convenient, and there have been no challenges since he started using it. “I really love it. It allows me to move even if I don’t have cash in my pocket”, he said.
Besides commuters, the introduction of the new ticketing system has been a blessing to operators. Before now, most operators used manual processes, cash and paper ticketing, among other crude methods. This added extra cost as it had to be quality to withstand duplication and sharp practices. Furthermore, those that used digital solutions imported it from foreign countries, making upgrades and repairs difficult.
Cowry being a homegrown solution provides better services at cheaper costs and at the same time removes the need for long lines to buy a ticket. The solution also gives the operators’ revenue assurance. Since all the fares for trips are paid directly to a wallet, it allows operators to monitor and track all its revenue removing risks like stealing and counterfeit tickets that came with the old process.
A new way to pay
The success of the Cowry card and application in Lagos wouldn’t have been possible without the foresight of the state government. During the pandemic last year, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) created an enabling environment for growth in the transportation sector by quickly adopting contactless digital solutions.
Since then, the Sanwo-Olu led administration has included digital payment solutions into the framework of its recent transportation projects. The new 500 First and Last Mile (FLM) buses equipped with contactless ticketing is a good example.
The company behind the technology, Cowry, has been building on the success of the current solution. According to the founding team, their mission is to bring the same ease and comfort of fare payments into different transport segments like ferries, car parking, trains and associated microtransactions.
Cowry is also making plans to add new features and offerings to make transportation even easier for commuters. Kazeem, a regular user of Cowry card, shared a unique experience of how a new feature the company was testing assisted him from being stranded at Berger. “I was travelling from Akure to Lagos, and when I got to Berger, I realised I didn’t have enough cash on me to take the next bus going to Obalende. I had my Cowry card on me, but my card balance was also negative. I was surprised when I tapped the bus scanner with my card, and I was still allowed to take the trip. This made me so happy, and the very next day, I topped up my card.”
The company explained that Bayo enjoyed some of the new services it is testing for loyal users. It added that the company is always ready to help its users whenever they are in need.
In the future, the company plans to make the cowry card a lifestyle utility card that will allow people to pay easily for transportation and other daily needs like parking and buying groceries.
How to get a Cowry card
The Cowry card is affordable and very easy to get. It is available at Major BRT Terminals like Ikeja, Ikorodu & TBS. After purchasing, you can start using it in minutes by either topping up using agents or the self terminal via the wallet in your App at any major terminal.
How to download the Cowry App.
Similar to the card, getting the Cowry app is very easy. You can download it from the Google Playstore, although the IOS version will be launched very soon. Registration on the App is also a one-time thing; it’s fast and requires just your phone number and identity details like name, email and a private pin to keep your account safe. Once you are registered, you can top up your wallet using a bank transfer. The amount transferred reflects in your wallet within minutes, and you can start taking rides easily.
Users can use the App to check the exact fare for each trip and manage the balance on their card even while on a ride.
How to commute with Cowry
There are two ways you can use Cowry to take rides. The first way is the tap in feature using the card on the scanner. The second way is using your smartphone to scan the QR code on the bus to take a ride.
The Cowry card and its App can work independently. This way, those who cannot afford a smartphone can still use the services.
Once you’ve completed your ride, you have to tap out when alighting to avoid extra charges. Yewande, a commuter, shared that she forgot to tap out after her ride and noticed she was debited extra. However, she said that the charge was refunded quickly after she reached out to the representatives of Cowry at the terminal.
Cowry acknowledged there may be other cards/system related issues and as with any technology, they are working tirelessly on improving customer user experience. Aside from the representatives at terminals, customers can reach out to them on several channels when they have trouble using their cards or the App. The company can be reached on mobile at +2349024429918, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via social media at @CowryLagos.