New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman rides on the unregulated minibuses that are fighting a move toward electronic payments in Nairobi.
Watch this New York Times video and say whether the statements below are true or false.
1 The matatus is a risky means of transport.
2 All the matatus use a transit card for payment.
3 The owner of Hitler named his matatu after a childhood friend.
4 Leigh is very close to the city centre of Nairobi.
5 You need a gmail account to get a transit card.
6 The reporter was arrested for refusing to show his identification.
7 Money is the only sure-fire way of payment in Nairobi's public transport.
Where, where we going?
We’re taking the Nairobi subway system right now and we’re about to jump in. We’re riding in one of Nairobi’s infamous matatus. They’re the mass transit of Kenya. Millions of people every day ride these mini buses.
While this is Nairobi’s mass transit system, there’s no real regulations. The driver and the conductor are incentivized to bring in as many passengers as possible, drive as fast as possible. It’s often like a drag race out here. It’s also a bit of an underworld. There is a lot of corruption. Some of the owners of matatus are known mafia figures. Police officers frequently stop the matatus and ask them for kitu kidogo, a little something.
The government of Kenya has been trying for years to clean up the matatu industry, so there’s this new plan a foot to eliminate cash in the matatus, to have all the passengers use like a New York subway transit card, but the problem is these guys are used to running their business a certain way, purely cash. Some people say they hide the money from the government so they don’t pay taxes, so many of the matatus including the one we are in, Hitler, have been refusing to use the new technology.
But wait a second, what’s the name of this matatu?
This matatu is called Hitler.
But how did it get that name?
The owner told me that when he was a little kid he was like a bully in his neighbourhood and all the kids in his neighbourhood called him Hitler.
Are there any objections to this?
No, a lot of the matatus have kind of controversial names like Gangsta. Yesterday I saw one called Psycho. So now let’s find one of these new cards that we’ve heard about that supposedly work on all the matatus.
... (Swahili) beba card. Beba card. Not that many people know about these new beba cards. A lot of the people looked at me like I was crazy when I was asking for them.
The bringing of technology to the masses here in Kenya, the challenges of a poor country, so the government struggle and they try to bring in this technology to everybody.
There is no beba cards that we can find in Nairobi. We have to go to a little place called …Leigh which is about twenty minutes outside of Nairobi and we’re going to see if there’s anybody up there that can sell us one of these cards.
I hear some people that are selling them, right here.
Habari yako a beba card?
Google developed this technology for free, but the catch is everybody who gets the card has to have a gmail account. So all this can be done on the street, which is pretty amazing actually. We’re standing here in the dirt of this matatu station.
Thirty minutes out of town.
Yeah, we have to go out of town. So this is my new card. So now that we got this, we can go anywhere, anywhere in Nairobi with our new beba card.
We swipe or tap?
It works, he tapped this, it took off sixty shillings but it looks like on this bus even though this beba card is everywhere that we might be the only one on the bus using this.
So we just got arrested by some undercover police officers who thought we were terrorists.
[You can’t arrest us. We work for the New York Times, man.]
When I refused to pull out my ID, they handcuffed me and then they took us to the police station, we worked everything out, we are all friends now, but the problem here there’s been a number of terrorist attacks in Nairobi, there’s even been some matatus that have had bombs put on them. So everybody is on edge.
Let’s see if I can use this matatu card to get home.
You take beba pay?
It looks like Hitler is not alone. None of these matatus are taking this technology. I got to use old-fashioned cash.