After news of the aborted launch of its airline venture, SANTACO Airlines became fodder for the country’s top comedians and cartoonists, South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) has decided to focus on what it is best qualified to do – running country’s taxi business efficiently. While efficiency is something of misnomer in an industry battling to consolidate its operations, Jonathan Msibi, Chairman of Taxi Choice, the organisation’s investment wing, said, one of the ways in which the organisation hopes to make taxi rides passenger-friendly and increase revenue for its members is introducing a smart card payment system.
Taxis are the main mode of transport for the country’s 15 million people, mostly drawn from black low income earners, who mainly live in townships. The current cash payment method is burdensome for both taxi owners and passengers. For taxi owners, it exposes their earnings to pilferage from errant drivers; for passengers, it makes budgeting difficult.
Msibi explained: “With a smart card, it will be easy for passengers to budget at the beginning of the month. They will just load their smart cards, as they do with Metro Buses, and move without running out of transport money.”
For taxi operators, the benefits would be immense, he adds. “As much as possible, they will be able to keep track of their daily revenue better.”
The man nicknamed ‘the enforcer in taxi industry fraternity knows very well that it is a mammoth task persuading the currently disjointed taxi bodies countrywide to buy into the concept. “I am hopeful,” Msibi declared.
Regarding the smart card project, SANTACO is doing its groundwork scrupulously, Msibi says: “With the airline business we got too excited at the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) opportunity but overlooked the business plan. It was a learning curve. Now we are wiser.”