Cowry Card set to power payments for Lagos' intra-city railways

Cowry Card, by Nigerian YC-backed fintech company—Touch and Pay, will power payments for Lagos State's intra-city railway system.

Cowry Card set to power payments for Lagos' intra-city railways
An overview of the intra-city railway in Lagos, Nigeria

In September 2022, the Lagos state government received the delivery of two TALGO Serie 8 trains for the Lagos rail mass transit—a rapid transit system that will cater for transportation in the commercial city.

Finally, the first phase of the project [at Blue Line Metro station] which was conceived in 1983 was completed yesterday (Dec. 21, 2022). "126 years after, the first train system that connected the mainland to the island, this first phase of the Blue Line (Mile 2 to Marina route) is done. COVID-19, civil unrest and other incidents meant work had to shut down for months came but we were determined to pursue this to its completion," Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos  state, tweeted.

The station will commence operations in January 2023 to convey 200,000 passengers daily, and the second phase of the project (Mile 2 to Okoko route) will also be flagged off, Sanwo-Olu added. Once it commences operations, learnt that the collection of payments will be powered by Nigerian fintech company, Touch And Pay (TAP) via Cowry Card—the state's transport payment card. The system has already been installed at the train station.

As of June 2022, Cowry has grown to over 1.7 million customers and $200,000 in monthly recurring revenue and has processed 3.5 million transactions monthly. Founded in 2019 by Michael Oluwole and Olamide Afolabi, TAP uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to help companies from different sectors process payments.

Recall that in Nov. 2022, TAP Touch won the first prize ($50,000) at the 5th edition of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge with the Cowry Card solution.

Also, the company was part of Y Combinator's 2022 Winter batch.

"Our goal is to use transportation as our anchor transaction," Olamide Afolabi, the co-founder and CEO of Touch and Pay, said in an interview in June 2022. "To solve this problem of digitizing microtransactions, we needed to anchor it to something that would cover the banked and the unbanked, and transportation was the perfect industry."

Sanwo-Olu tapping in to the Blue Line Metro Station using Cowry Card by TAP

According to Afolabi, the Cowry Card works offline. "One of the problems plaguing the current payment system is that many people still do not have access to a stable internet connection. And payments have to be processed immediately to assure business owners that they received the money; otherwise, they are not going to part with their goods or provide their services," he said.

He added that "the only way to ensure reliability is to not depend on the internet. With our platform, when someone makes a payment, the value stored on the card is transferred to the payment terminal. Then, once they have access to the internet, they can move the funds into their bank account."

At the Lagos intra-city train station, the Cowry Card will work just like the United Kingdom's Oyster card which allows "pay as you go" on buses, trains, cable cars and other transport systems. 

Credit: Lagos state government

Editor's Note: This is a developing story, it will be updated with comments from TAP and the Lagos state transport authorities.

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