EXCLUSIVE: The modest man behind historic Zimbabwe card innovation

EXCLUSIVE: The modest man behind historic Zimbabwe card innovation

IN the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.

This rings true in the creation of what is arguably the first innovation of its kind in the public transportation system in the entire continent.

The tap-and-go card, an invention by multi-talented technology expert and, Dr Engineer Talon Garikayi, was borne by Zimbabwe’s well-documented cash challenges, which saw passengers struggling to raise money for transport, among other needs.

“The idea came about due to the challenges faced by the travelling public in accessing cash for payments and we really wanted to create a cashless society,” Garikayi said in an interview with CAJ News Zimbabwe.

Matsimba Technologies, a startup under the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), developed the card. Garikayi is at the institute.

With the re-introduction of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) bus services to alleviate chronic transport shortages, he made most of the cash shortages to come up with the innovation.

It is not merely a card to get into a cheaper public bus. It is something that goes beyond that.

This is a complete package that runs from merely getting into a bus but also to monitoring the bus itself.

It costs ZWL$15 (about R15) and with more journeys across Harare, Bulawayo and other centres pegged at between a $1 and $1,50, a holder is assured of at least ten trips before they top up.

ZUPCO kombis charge $2.

Garikayi explained the growth in popularity of the card from its development.

“We developed the software (platform) between January and March 2019. It was independent from any bank. After that, we ran a pilot project from March to April with 28 buses plying the Harare-Chitungwiza route,” he said.

After that, they then partnered with NMB Bank, previously the National Merchant Bank of Zimbabwe, and later on roped in CBZ Bank (ex-Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe).

“Today, NMB carries about 70 percent of the transactions that go through and CBZ 30 percent. This is primarily because NMB is countrywide while CBZ, for now, has Mutare, Masvingo and Gweru,” Garikayi said.

He continued: “The process is rather simple. There is a device (belonging to the bank) and the card called the Near Field Connectivity (NFC) that is not inserted into the machine but is brought closer to it, then you are done.”

“If a trip costs $10 bond, the banks take that and the money goes to ZUPCO only after a service has been provided. The money is always with the bank, not with us (HIT) or ZUPCO, until after service has been provided.”

The system does more than payments.

“We do a lot. We can know the amount of fuel in any bus, the number of transactions that have been done per each card and trips, track the bus and its speed. We can detect the mileage of the bus, when the bus’ engine is off and on and get a full fuel report,” Garikayi said.

“Further, the system reports if the bus is off-route and when it attempts to do we can lock it up right here from the office until we get a report and we re-activate, so the system is a full package indeed,” the engineer added.

He works with 60 students.

All of the scholars are assured of jobs after graduation, with the need for such their services anticipated to soar.

“Next, we are going to be able to take photos, install cameras in the buses and termini,” Garikayi disclosed.

“We are excited about this innovation. It’s the first in Zimbabwe and the first in Africa. We are not stopping there. More is still to come,” Garikayi concluded.

Born 37 years ago in the Masvingo Province, Garikayi has a passion for electronics and engineering.

An assuming character, easy on the go but full of ideas that belie his stature, he has attained several qualifications in these fields at various tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

– CAJ News

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