E be like say we too dey waka for Lagos o. It’s probably the reason everyone is queuing up to solve the transportation problems in the city. Las las Lagos will get even more crowded. Now GONA app, a Chinese mobile payment platform funded by a number of Asian venture capitalists is trying to fix the “hold your change o” problem we face every day with danfo buses – but I don’t think it’s gonna work!
Last year I thought of this idea of solving the change problem with tech and I shared with a friend. Instantly it made sense given it was a major issue that needed solving.
We were quick to think of how it would work, but when we switched over to address all the possible reasons why it wouldn’t work, we found more defeatist possibilities.
1. How techy is your average danfo driver?
So first question, picking 10 typical danfo drivers, how many would have a smartphone? Do they have data to download and run the app regularly?
2. Medium of payment and maintenance costs
GONA is pasting QR codes all at strategic spots in each bus. My friend and I thought of a wrist band; Flutterwave’s 2019 April Fool joke with it was a rubber glove. So how will these QR codes be maintained? Nigeria is notorious for its lack of a maintenance culture. Some ‘bad bele’ people will even peel them off free of charge.
3. Cash will still be king
The idea is to make transactions cashless but it might not be your average danfo driver’s next level stuff considering that a good number of them do not own the buses and have to pay the owner, and ‘settle’ their conductors.
Would it be really worth the stress of having to figure out a way to withdraw money at the end of the day’s job? And we know how unreliable transfers can be at times.
4. Bad blood between drivers and conductors
This model eliminates the need for conductors, and it could encourage them to go on and eliminate whatever it is that would make them irrelevant which is quite simple – get rid of the QR code stickers.
Also, some passengers are dubious and take advantage when a driver doesn’t have a conductor and end up not paying. The drivers will end up losing money daily to such people.
5. How do you make your money?
This service almost has to be free (for both driver and passengers) if not there isn’t really any incentive to go for it. So it leaves you with the headache of how you will make your money.
GONA’s co-founder and country manager for Nigeria Noah Gu has said the service is free and has no revenue model yet. Its focus for the next three years is user acquisition.
This is probably the biggest problem of this model, no thanks to how badly structured the Lagos transport system is. And of course the many Agbero (local touts) groups across the state demanding money from transport operators every minute of the day.
Partner with them? Good idea. But how many of them can you partner with? Who is the face of the associations? And you would be pretty lucky if they honoured your agreement more than a day.
Lagos state government needs to thoroughly restructure the transport system and get rid of all the illegal associations, until then nobody is going anywhere fast.