How Nairobi governor came to our aid and made our grand idea a reality

Many people have rightfully or wrongly associated Sonko with only coming to the aid of poor and vulnerable Kenyans.

He is the founder of Virscom Limited and CEO of ShareCab, the latest entrant in Kenya’s rapidly growing taxi-hailing service.

Apart from ShareCab, Mwakio has also tried his hand in several startups and chains of business within the ICT sector and lucrative but highly volatile Matatu industry.

Mike Mbuvi Sonko, on the other hand, is also a father, a husband and the governor of Nairobi County, Kenya’s capital city fondly referred to as the ‘city in the sun’.

Sonko is popularly known for his philanthropic activities the most notable being Sonko Rescue Team (SRT).

He has severally come to the aid of poor Kenyans who have been struck by one tragedy or another and more recently announced that his government will employ street children as cleaners in an effort to help them support themselves and be productive members of the society.

Many people have therefore rightfully or wrongly associated the governor with only coming to the aid of poor and vulnerable Kenyans.

But as Mwakio came to realize Sonko is also quite a believer of dreams and one doesn't need to be living below a dollar a day to earn his ear and aid.

In 2014, after quitting his job Mwakio teamed up with his business partner and together with the collaboration of Matatu owners and Matatu Welfare Association launched Kenya’s first Matatu electronic payment service dubbed My1963.

My 1963 is a cashless payment solution which allowed commuters to easily pay their fare without much hassle and being electronic it was hoped it would streamline the Matatu industry and assist the government with revenue collection in the process.

That is when Mwakio’s path and Sonko’s meet, ushering a new path of friendship and partnership.

“He really opened up 1963 for me, in fact if it wasn’t for Sonko I don’t think 1963 would have been what it was.” Mwakio recalls.

Previously Mwakio had never meet  the governor and had not had any interactions with him but that did not stop Sonko from going out of this way to support his dream by personally endorsing and investing in the product.

“I asked him to come for the launch because at that time he was a matatu stake holder and of course he was the senator and by him coming I think I got about 100 Saccos that day just by Sonko showing up “

Of course before coming he had asked about the product through phone calls and stuff and he really helped us pushed the products and all his vehicles at that time were using our card.

He really gave us a big boost and within Eastland’s alone we had over 60,000 customers using our cards.”

However just when it seemed like My1963 had taken off and was on it way to changing the Matatu industry for good, trouble began to court them.

“Then the pitfalls came and the banks started fighting us, we were taken to court red tape here red tape there which was now the first lesson in business, you know us guys learned all this in courts”

Of course, we were making some mistakes; we hadn’t got the necessary approval need to actually do the business because we weren’t accredited by the CBK at the time people taking us to courts.”

At the time we had a lot of friction between Banks and Saccos, Banks did not want to work with Saccos because Saccos already had a monopoly when it came to mobile money and of course Saccos were also taking a lot of money from the banks within the network”

Mwakio, however, adds that My1963 card is not dead and he will readily go back once all the puzzle pieces are in place and working in sync.

“what really happened was that all our systems were working  in silos because  we all followed procedures and when we followed procedures  for example 1963 in itself just provided  an avenue where  only 1963 would work within  1963 framework and we had not opened our systems to  work with banks similarly the banks had not opened  their systems to work with us so we all went to the market   and we all were all ready with silos, we were then mandated by the ministry of  transport and  NTSA to create a framework where we  have an interoperability and we had sittings and everything seemed to go very well  until  greed came in “

“I don’t know what happened people started  becoming greedy ooh we want to be the switch  we want to be the issuer ooh we don’t want to be this we want that and that actually up to today that  is where the problem is, it has never really been cancelled it is just that there has never really been an agreement so for me 1963 we decided to move on as a matter of fact I stopped even thinking about it  because it was just wasting time and a lot more money that you could go get out there  so that is just how it fizzles out.”

“But in essence it is not a dead project people can still go back because so long as we inter operate it is something that Kenya can actually do it, it is just that we don’t have goodwill from all players because each player is looking at how they can make money for themselves and not really how the concept can work for the public, so we moved on and of course learnt our lessons and decided we were going to concentrate on our strengths  because at the end of the day you just can’t maintain status quo on one project.”

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