Nigerian fintech TAP’s Cowry cards to be used for new Lagos Blue Rail line

Ganiu Oloruntade
TAP
Image Source: TAP

Touch and Pay Technologies [TAP], a Nigerian fintech company and a leading processor of micro-transactions in Africa, has announced that rail passengers across the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, can access the newly launched Blue Rail Line using TAP’s contactless Cowry card. 

According to a statement shared with Technext, the partnership with the Lagos state government enables Lagosians to use the Cowry card across the 13 kilometres of track proposed for the project.

On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned the project’s first phase as part of his two-day working visit to Lagos. Recall last September, the Lagos state government received the delivery of two TALGO Serie 8 trains from Milwaukee, United States, for the Lagos mass rail project.

The first phase of the track, from Marina to Mile-2, supports 200,000 daily passengers, who can now seamlessly enter and exit stations through TAP’s state-of-the-art turnstiles. Upon completion, phase two, from Mile 2 to Okokomaiko, will enable up to 500,000 daily passengers to easily manoeuvre between stations Rail, Bus and Ferry. 

Nigerian fintech TAP's Cowry cards to be used for new Lagos Blue Rail line
Lagos Blue Rail Line.

Founded in 2019 by Olamide Afolabi, Kabir Yabo, and Michael Oluwole, TAP was the first payment company in Nigeria to provide payment infrastructure that allowed contactless payment cards to be used on buses and ferries.

Unlike riders on other lines, the 500,000 daily passengers using the Blue Rail Line will not have to endure the old, arduous procedure of manually examining their tickets. Turnstiles will operate at Alaba, Marina, National Theatre, Mile 2, and Orile.

Riders touch their Cowry cards against the tempered glass-protected state-of-the-art turnstile validators, which use Near-field communication (NFC) technology to enable communication between cards and the automated collection points. TAP’s pay-as-you-go card dramatically lowers fare evasion.

Nigerian fintech TAP's Cowry cards to be used for new Lagos Blue Rail line
TAP Co-Founders, Olamide Afolabi and Michael Oluwole. Image Source: TAP.

Simplifying payment for train fares

Commenting on the development, Olamide Afolabi, Co-founder and CEO of Touch and Pay Technologies, said, “We are thrilled to be facilitating and digitising payment on behalf of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA). We’ve deployed our NFC payment solutions on BRT buses, ferries, and now trains.

“Our contactless payment solutions have been a huge success. We have created a 21st-century solution for today’s passengers.”

Up until now, train fares typically worked on low-value cash transactions, whereas most electronic cards don’t allow for payment below $10, which was problematic for many passengers. 

“Our Cowry card, which enables microtransactions between 10 cents and $10, bridges this gap. People can now use a digital and modern method to pay for their train journeys without carrying huge amounts of cash. We are optimistic that even more passengers will discover the benefits of this fast, yet reliable technology, which unifies transportation in Lagos – for the first time.”

TAP currently serves the transportation space and has since grown to record over two million users (300,000 of which are active daily), registered on about 100 bus and ferry operators in Lagos, Kano, Ogun, and Oyo States.

In an email response to Technext, Olamide Afolabi explained that TAP maintains a positive partnership with the Lagos State government by ensuring that they are accountable to the SLA and the government is not asked to make any investment upfront.

In an email to Technext, he said, “In partnering with any government agency, we’ve always ensured that it’s a public-private partnership approach, as against contract. As long as our revenue is tied to making the solution work, it’s always paramount to be accountable to the SLA given by the agency we work with. We also generate revenue for them without asking them to invest upfront.”

Read also: Tubosun Alake discusses government intervention and challenges of tech in Lagos.

Advancing financial inclusion

Financial inclusion is a major problem in Nigeria, with a huge unbanked population. About 64 million adults don’t have access to banks, thus limiting their ability to withdraw cash for use on public transportation.

To solve this problem, TAP created the Cowry card, an ingenious card used to pay for transport digitally, first tried on buses in 2020. According to the company, Cowry cards have been used in six states and helped make 3.5 million monthly contactless bus transactions in just four years. 

Nigerian fintech TAP's Cowry cards to be used for new Lagos Blue Rail line
Cowry card. Image Source: TAP.

Olamide Afolabi is confident that Lagosians are comfortable using the Cowry cards. He told TechNext,

“We have around less than 0.1 percent failure rate, as a result we have built huge confidence in the usage. Also, we provided customer care representatives at every terminal and on call, to ensure that issues are resolved when raised.”

On the launch of the Cowry cards for the Lagos Blue Line Rail, Elias Akin, Chief Technology Officer of TAP Technologies, said, “We have taken all necessary steps to ensure that our users’ data is secure, and the technology is very easy to use because we understand the various demography of our users”.

Nigerian fintech TAP's Cowry cards to be used for new Lagos Blue Rail line

TAP says it is helping by advancing financial inclusion among the mostly unbanked population with its effective processing of micropayments ranging from 10 cents to $10. The company seeks to digitise the informal market with contactless cards and pave the road for genuine financial inclusion by assuring 99.9% reliability in cashless transactions across the entire African economy.

“Payment is a social issue, not a technological one, which is why solutions to solve transit payment issues are a priority for us. In the past, foreign companies were tasked with solving our local transportation problems. We’re pleased that we are the first local company to deliver this unifying solution,” said Michael Oluwole, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer of Touch and Pay Technologies.

Read more: Cash swap programme: CBN chooses 5 banks, bars Abuja, Lagos PoS operators.

What next for TAP

TAP technologies disclosed to Technext that there are conversations with the federal government to allow the use of cards as a means of payment for other rail services across the nation. The YC combinator-backed fintech also seeks to expand the usage and services of the card.

“Yes, we are discussing with the federal ministry of transportation, to extend our usage,” Olamide Afolabi said in an email. “We plan to eventually open it up such that regular payment cards, like Mastercard or visa card can make payments via their contactless interface. We will also drive mobile app payment adoption.


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