Two years after the Government of Kenya entered into a partnership with Mastercard to launch the Huduma Card, a prepaid smart card with chip and PIN technology, the project is finally taking off.

The new cards will allow Kenyans to pay for an array of Government services such as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), as well as to access targeted funds for women and youth directly.

Huduma Kenya is a programme by the Government of Kenya that provides citizens with access to various Public Services and information at one-stop citizen service centres and through integrated technology platforms.

Through the Huduma Centres, one can get birth certificates, national identity cards, passports, registration of business names, and applications for marriage certificates, driversโ€™ licences, police abstracts, and many other essential services one place.

MasterCard won the contract in 2015, and there were attempts to introduce the card as a means to pay for public transport, but after the project was shuttered due to lack of stakeholder interest and poor experience design, it appears that the plan is back on track, with new 'Cash Lite Express' buses spotted on the streets of Nairobi.

It seems that the focus is now on paying for essential services in addition to transport, perhaps because of the payment gaps that exist in the social services sector, as well as the need for a secure payment solution to serve this purpose.

The Huduma initiative introduced by the Kenyan government is one of the most innovative approaches to including citizens to the financial sector. We are proud partners, and it is a real honour to have been selected to power the solution with our world-class payment technology. Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard

Huduma Card holders will automatically be enrolled in vital government services such as the National Social Security Fund and the National Hospital Insurance Fund, widening the reach of these essential services.

Applicants do not require a credit check or bank account to apply, and the cards are currently being issued by Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), Diamond Trust Bank (DTB), Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), with no bank charges being allocated to citizens when registering for the smart card.

The cards come with multi-layered security features. The embedded EMV chip and PIN technology, for example, is a global payment standard that ensures that funds are protected even if the card is lost or stolen. This layer of protection ensures beneficiaries can receive their funds conveniently and securely.

Once funds are loaded to the prepaid card, cardholders can use their Huduma Card to pay for goods and services in-store, online, by phone or to withdraw cash from ATMs โ€“ anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

"Innovation is central to achieving our vision of a world beyond cash in Kenya and across the continent", Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard said in a statement. "We are committed to developing market-relevant payment solutions that enhance the adoption of cashless transactions. By working together with industry, merchants and businesses, we will achieve this, in East Africa.

Talking on behalf of the Huduma Kenya Programme, Dennis Mutuku, CEO Huduma Kenya Secretariat said, โ€œThis is Kenyaโ€™s first multipurpose social payment card with payment functionality and we are excited to see the instant, substantial and positive impact that this will have on the lives of millions of citizens previously excluded from the financial mainstream.โ€

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