Black Elite, a minibus taxi rewards program, could become a bank

Ujuh Reporter

Black Elite, a card-based consumer programme that offers fuel rewards to minibus taxi operators, could become a considerable banking operation, if its backers follow through their stated vision.

The fuel rewards programme was launched recently by SA Taxi, an independent minibus taxi financier, in collaboration with Taxi Choice, the commercial arm of the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO). Black Elite is positioned as “a pioneering multi-faceted card based rewards program.”

It could become huge if it succeeds to pull a deep penetration within the minibus taxi industry. And it could be a realisation of a long lost dream of deriving added economic value from the collectivised purchasing power of the industry.

The minibus taxi industry is thought to be a sleeping giant defined as:

  • A R100 billion industry
  • With more than 200 000 vehicles
  • Employing more than 600,000 people
  • Transports 15 million commuters per day
  • Accounting for 66% of the country’s public transport traffic

With united vision the industry could launch a mutual bank at the blink of an eye. Offcourse, that’s easily said than done. The industry is dogged by violent fights for markets and control of its massive levy kitties. And it is disorganised and unprofessionally run.

SA Taxi is unperturbed. It sees the potential and is going for it. The operation launched Black Elite on the back of a track record of financing minibus taxi operators. And it states that the Black Elite card has a huge potential to be converted into “a functional bank card”.

Advancement of mobile information and communication technologies (ICT) will allow this as reflected by the emergence of six new banking operations. New operations like Discovery Bank, Bank Zero, Tyme Digital and the Young Women in Business Network are emerging to take on the giants like Standard Bank, Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Capitec. They are mostly propelled by the fact that mobile communication technologies have made it easier to start a new banking network than the capital intensive requirements of old.

And grassroots operations like KCB (Khanya Cooperative Bank) are bubbling under.

Black Elite works in the following manner: To benefit from the rewards program, taxi owners need to register directly with SA Taxi, or via their association. Once enrolled, a Black Elite card linked to their taxi will be issued at any Taximart dealership or SA Taxi welcome centre, or collected from the owner’s taxi association. The card can then be swiped when filling up at participating Shell service stations to earn rewards.

SA Taxi Communications Executive, Maroba Maduma, said to date 3,324 cards have been distributed, with another 3,000 expected to be in circulation by the end of September 2018.

He added that Shell has been selected as the program’s first loyalty partner because of its extensive national network. “We estimate that 450 million litres of fuel will be purchased from Shell and this level of consumption will ensure that the industry realises significant value from their existing spend with the brand.”

“Based on these figures we expect to disburse in excess of R550,000 to taxi operators and over R129,000 to drivers and associations, respectively, in that time period,” said Maduma.

He said they are working towards broadening product coverage of the programme. Plans include casting the Black Elite net into products like tyres, oil, lubricants, auto parts, and service station convenience stores. And there is a vision place to convert the Black Elite card into a functional bank card.

Maduma said “This represents a significant contribution towards the financial sustainability and prosperity of what is arguably one of the most important cogs in the local economy. Without taxis, millions of South Africans would be unable to get to work.”

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