Getting around the busy streets of Lagos comes with many stories, from angry drivers screaming for payment to arguments over ride fares and the balance of payment; the experience can be very exhausting. Over a year ago, a group of innovators developed the Cowry Card and App, an ingenious solution that makes paying on public transport easier and more convenient.
The solution eliminates the need for intermediaries such as drivers, Lagosians commonly referred to as “Agbero”, by making payment for journeys fully digital. Commuters simply need to use their card or scan their app to pay for their groceries, making the whole process completely contactless.
The company started operations in Lagos by helping the government switch from paper tickets to contactless and digital ticketing for the state’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Since then, the use of the map and the app has gradually become popular and is currently used by millions of commuters across the state. It can also be said that the technology is helping to drive the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which aims to reduce the amount of cash in circulation, thus encouraging the use of electronic platforms for the settlement or payment of goods. and services.
On the solution’s recent 1st anniversary, Adebayo, a regular Cowry card user, expressed that he liked the innovation. Adebayo explained that he didn’t have to think about transportation costs every time he left the house since he started using the card.
“All I do is load the card with around 20,000, and I don’t have to worry about transport for the rest of the month,” he said.
Like Adebayo, many Lagosians hailed the new change. Sarah, another commuter, pointed out that she liked the card because it saved her the old problem of looking for tickets or looking for smaller denominations for travel.
Likewise, Mohammed, who has also been using the card for about four months, said it was extremely convenient and there have been no issues since he started using it. “I really like it. It allows me to move around even if I don’t have any money in my pocket,” he said.
Besides commuters, the introduction of the new ticketing system has been a blessing for operators. Previously, most operators used manual processes, cash and paper tickets, among other crude methods. This added an additional cost as it had to be of high quality to withstand duplication and advanced practices. In addition, those who used digital solutions imported it from foreign countries, making upgrades and repairs difficult.
Cowry being a local solution, provides better services at lower costs and at the same time eliminates the need for long queues to purchase a ticket. The solution also provides assurance of operators’ revenues. Since all travel fares are paid directly to a wallet, this allows operators to monitor and track all of its income by eliminating risks like ticket theft and counterfeiting that came with the old process.
A new way to pay
The success of the Cowry Card and App in Lagos would not have been possible without the foresight of the state government. During last year’s pandemic, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) created an enabling environment for the growth of the transportation sector by rapidly adopting digital contactless solutions.
Since then, the administration led by Sanwo-Olu has included digital payment solutions as part of its recent transportation projects. The new 500 First and Last Mile (FLM) buses equipped with contactless ticketing are a good example.
The company behind the technology, Cowry, built on the success of the current solution. According to the founding team, their mission is to bring the same ease and comfort of payment for tickets in different transport segments such as ferries, car parks, trains and associated microtransactions.
Cowry is also planning to add new features and offerings to make transportation even easier for commuters. Kazeem, a regular Cowry Card user, shared a unique experience of how a new feature tested by the company helped him avoid getting stuck at Berger. “I was traveling from Akure to Lagos, and when I got to Berger, I realized I didn’t have enough money on me to take the next bus to Obalende. I had my Cowry card with me, but my card balance was negative as well. I was surprised when I tapped the bus scanner with my card, and was still allowed to make the trip. It made me so happy, and the next day, I reloaded my card.
The company explained that Bayo liked some of the new services it is testing for loyal users. He added that the company is always ready to help its users whenever they need it.
In the future, the company plans to make the cowrie card a utility lifestyle card that will make it easy for people to pay for transportation and other daily needs like parking and groceries.
How to get a Cowry card
The Cowry Card is affordable and very easy to obtain. It is available in major BRT terminals like Ikeja, Ikorodu and TBS. After purchase, you can start using it within minutes either by top-up using agents or through the automatic terminal via your app wallet on any main terminal.
How to download the Cowry app.
Similar to the map, getting the Cowry app is very easy. You can download it from the Google Playstore, although the IOS version is launching very soon. Signing up on the App is also a unique thing; it’s fast and only requires your phone number and identity information like your name, email address, and a private PIN to protect your account. Once registered, you can top up your wallet by bank transfer. The transferred amount is reflected in your wallet within minutes and you can start shopping easily.
Users can use the app to check the exact fare for each trip and manage their card balance even during a trip.
How to get around with Cowry
There are two ways to use Cowry for walks. The first is to use the insert function using the card on the scanner. The second way is to use your smartphone to scan the QR code on the bus for 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’re done with your ride, you need to tap on the way down to avoid additional charges. Yewande, a commuter, said she forgot to type after her commute and noticed she was charged extra. However, she said the fees were reimbursed promptly after contacting Cowry’s representatives at the terminal.
Cowry recognized that there can be other board / system issues and like any technology, they work tirelessly to improve the user experience for customers. In addition to the representatives at the terminals, customers can reach them on several channels when they have difficulty using their card or the App. The company can be reached on mobile at +2349024429918, by email at [email protected] or via social media at @CowryLagos.